Preah Vihear Provincial Court prosecutor Phy Sithorng issued a summons for four forest activists to appear in court on September 14 over charges of incitement to commit a felony after PNT Co Ltd filed a complaint against them concerning a 2015 land dispute.

The summons ordered Khem Sokhy, 36; So Thal, 45; Vong Sok Khengly, 46; and San Reth, 62, to appear in court. All of the suspects are men and residents of Ruosroan commune’s Russey village in Rovieng district.

The four are due to appear in court over charges of incitement to commit a felony under Article 895 of the Criminal Code. The offence is said to have been committed on April 24, 2015, in Reabroy commune.

Khem Sokhy, one of the four, said on Wednesday that he had already received the summons and that he is looking for legal representation.

Sokhy said the company seemed not to have done anything with the land after the forest on it was logged. Currently, four or five villagers had borrowed land from the company and grown crops on it.

“My village consists of more than 100 families. They have had disputes with the company since 2015. But authorities solved it indecisively and the court summoned them one by one. But nothing came of it.

“The company filed the complaint against us, saying we incited residents to protest against it to take our land back. In order words, we have always stopped the company from logging the forest. So, the company is angry with us,” he said.

Contact information for a representative of the company could not be found on Wednesday.

Preah Vihear provincial rights group Adhoc coordinator Lor Chan said he is aware of the case because the four suspects requested legal representation from Adhoc.

He said the reason the court summoned them was that it wants to accelerate addressing the backlog of cases.

“If the court orders their arrest upon questioning or at any time, we can regard it as a threat and a violation of their rights and freedoms.

“But if they are placed under court supervision, it is a normal thing. I acknowledge that as per court procedure when there are many cases, the court must issue the summons to serve as a basis to charge them or drop the charges,” he said.

PNT Co Ltd has been clearing the farmland of residents in Ruosroan commune since January 2014. The clearing has affected some 800ha consisting of 127 families.

The families have always claimed they had occupied it and grown rice on the land for over 10 years. But the company had cleared it for private ownership.