Ratanakkiri provincial authorities opened – and subsequently closed – an investigation into an activist for rights group Adhoc last week, accusing him of instigating an anti-government movement among a community of ethnic Jarai embroiled in a land dispute with a Vietnamese concessionaire.
According to Dork Sar, governor of Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district, provincial officials asked in a meeting last Thursday that he investigate the actions of Adhoc provincial co-ordinator Chhay Thy after village and commune chiefs reported he had encouraged residents of Lom village to protest against rubber concessionaire Company 72 – which they have long accused of encroaching onto their traditionally occupied lands – only to drop the case after receiving inconclusive reports.
“They asked me . . . to make a written report, so that they can take legal action against [Chhay Thy],” Sar said.
Paknhai commune police chief Poy Chroch also said Thy had urged villagers to demonstrate whenever a company cleared their land or forest, an accusation Thy rejected.
Thy said he had suggested protest as a possibility at a meeting with Lom villagers last week.
“The villagers have complained to the relevant authorities, but nothing happened, so I suggested they try non-violent protest. Whether they do or don’t depends on them,” he said.
The authorities also accused him of dismissing the validity of land titles issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youth volunteers, he added, but maintained he had only been paraphrasing the words of Company 72’s management when he said the titles would not keep the company off the land. “All the accusations are based on confusion,” Thy said.
Sar said authorities were unable to uncover any clear information on the matter.
“The report from my village and commune chiefs was not clear, so we decided to end the problem,” he said.
Sar maintained Company 72 had been clearing the land it was granted by the government.