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Forest activists asked to court over protest

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Het Nay, one of the 11 who have been summoned to court for questioning. Photo supplied

Forest activists asked to court over protest

The Preah Vihear provincial prosecutor has summoned 11 members of Prey Preah Roka Forest Community Network to testify in a series of cases involving fraud and incitement to cause social unrest in connection with a planned protest for the release of Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.

The protest took place in early September in Kdol village, in Chheb district’s M’lou Prey I commune.

Het Nay, a representative of the community and one of the 11 summoned to court, told The Post that on September 6, the 11 members gathered in the village before travelling to Phnom Penh to join the protest for the release Rong Chhun. But they never joined the protests in Phnom Penh, Nay said.

“We arrived in Phnom Penh but did not join the protest. We just spent one night in Phnom Penh and returned the next morning. Then we were summoned by the provincial court prosecutor’s office for questioning, but we didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

Nay, who is due testify on November 11, said he is finding a lawyer to request a delay in the proceedings as some have testified already.

“I want a delay and find a lawyer to consult in advance. I also want more support from people to clarify [the situation]. We do not understand the proper rules and procedures of the court. I’m not sure what the purpose of this case is. They accused us of something we didn’t actually commit, so we need to apply for a delay,” Nay said.

Provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Lor Chan said the 11 community members had been summoned by deputy prosecutor Seng Meng Srun. Eight people were due in court on November 4, two people on November 6 and another on November 11.

He expressed concern that forest activists are being summoned while businesspeople who encroach on land in the Prey Roka area face no legal action.

Provincial court deputy prosecutor and spokeswoman Phy Sithorng could not be reached for comment on November 8.

Prosecutor Ty Sovinthal urged those who were summoned to not be frightened and come to their appointments to avoid legal consequences.

“Please come in according to the procedure and at the appointed time, there is no problem. Do not be afraid ... If they do not come, there will be a second warrant ordering them to appear. The third one will be an arrest warrant. So, just come to answer [questions]. There won’t be detention because this case is not a criminal offence,” he said.

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