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‘Assaulted’ forest activist sued

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Environment activist Chhorn Phalla is accused of disrupting a public forum on July 8. Facebook

‘Assaulted’ forest activist sued

Forest activist Chhorn Phalla has been summoned to an August 12 hearing at Ratanakkiri Provincial Court after a complaint was filed against him by Lumphat district governor Nou The.

Phalla, who a member of the Tampuan indigenous group in Sakmotr Kraom village, is accused of disrupting a public forum on July 8 in Lumphat district’s Seda commune. He claims to have been badly beaten at that forum.

“I will have the hearing at the court and this is also an opportunity to reveal the cruelty of Nou The and his men who hit me,” Phalla said.

The Lumphat district council held a public forum on July 8 to meet citizens and listen to their concerns and problems.

Phalla said when he mentioned his concern regarding the loss of forests, a group of people whom he previously sued for destroying forest land and encroaching on State land as a network with district authorities attacked him.

“The people who hit me are the same people I sued in 2017 for destroying the forest and encroaching on State land in Wildlife Sanctuaries, burial grounds, tourist and community land belonging to ethnic minority groups,” he claimed.

“I ran to seek help from Lumphat district governor Nou The. When I reached his place he asked me why I sued him. I told him I followed the law. After that, people came and took my phone from me. I collapsed to the ground in front of Nou The, but no one helped me,” he said.

Phalla said his family took him to Ratanakkiri provincial hospital after the incident. Now The is suing him for disrupting the public forum.

On July 23, Ratanakkiri Provincial Court deputy prosecutor and spokesman Ra Borandy named Phalla, 42, as the subject of the hearing.

Phalla filed a complaint on July 20 against 16 people for violence. The was not mentioned in the complaint. All 16 have been charged with aggravated intentional violence, premeditated murder, intimidation, and death threats.

The denied Phalla’s claim but didn’t want to say any more. “What Phalla said is not true. I cannot say anything more,” he told The Post.

He sent a letter to Ratanakkiri provincial governor Thong Savon claiming that Phalla went to the forum without permission. The letter stated he was off-topic, disrupted the forum, took videos and posted them without permission.

Authorities tried to stop him, but he did not listen to the people and therefore they took away his phone.

Ratanakkiri provincial police sent a letter to the General Commissariat of National Police stating that Phalla defamed citizens and authorities. People were angry so they protested and it caused disorder at the forum. Authorities had to stop him.

A spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, Soeng Sen Karuna, told The Post the authorities must take responsibility for how they allowed offenders to hit the victim at a public forum.

He called it embarrassing that a district governor and police officers allowed a group of people to hit a victim.

“We call on the national level not to believe the report. They have to investigate clearly because we found many abnormalities.

“The violence was coordinated and the situation requires an in-depth investigation to find justice. Lower-level officials did not report about their illegal acts to the national level,” Sen Karuna said.

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