The organizers of a June 17 human rights training workshop in Preah Vihear say it was shut down by police, though local authorities yesterday insisted officers only went to ask that it be postponed for pragmatic concerns.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Lor Chhan said the authorities halted the Chheb district workshop to deprive residents of the legal knowledge to contest land disputes.
Chhan said yesterday that on June 24, one week after the session was brought to a premature end, he was given a letter dated June 15 and signed by Ung Vuthy, head of the provincial administration department. “It is the rainy season and people are busy growing crops, so we ask Mr Chhan to postpone the session so it does not affect people’s livelihoods,” the letter said.
Vuthy could not be reached for comment yesterday, but District Governor Sok Sandara confirmed police had turned up, but insisted they were only there to ask for a postponement.
However, Chhan maintains it was more heavy-handed.
“There were three police officers. [District Deputy Governor Sok Monirith] said if we didn’t postpone he would use force immediately,” Chhan said, adding that the incident occurred about 11am.
Monirith could not be reached for comment.
“I’ve observed that the area that I planned to hold the training in is hot in terms of land issues. I believe that the authorities are afraid of people understanding about their rights and that they will use their rights to find justice for themselves,” Chhan said.