Four representatives of the Coalition of Cambodia Farmers Community, who had convened a workshop to discuss problems faced by farmers, were interrogated by police in Takeo province yesterday as to whether their NGO was affiliated with an opposition “movement”.
Kem Piseth, the coalition's Takeo province coordinator, said local Rovieng commune authorities accused the NGO of failing to get permission for the gathering, saying the congregation of about 30 farmers could be related to the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, which was recently founded overseas by ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy and has been branded a “terrorist” group by the government.
Four employees – Chork Tum, Phai Tha, Koy San and Piseth – were brought in by police, interrogated and released after signing documents pledging to get proper permission for meetings. According to Piseth, the commune chief had been notified beforehand, though police contended he was not.
Phai Tha, the provincial head of coallition, said they were informed by commune authorities they needed permission from the provincial and district level in order to hold meetings or offer agricultural training.
“They accused us of being the [Cambodia National Rescue Party] people. Now, I think that the rights and freedom become too narrow,” he said.
Sar Dara, the Rovieng commune police chief, could not be reached for comment yesterday, nor could the commune chief.
Nhem Sros, Samrong district governor, said he doubted politics were related to the case, adding authorities at all levels needed notification. “I am happy too, as they come and teach our children, but they need to ask for permission first,” he said.
An October 2, 2017, letter from the Ministry of Interior issued amid a clampdown on dissent and the political opposition instructed provincial authorities to report unauthorised gatherings to the ministry.