A LOCAL rights group yesterday announced it had launched an investigation into complaints by villagers in Preah Vihear province, who have accused a local NGO of ongoing human rights violations, including land-grabbing, rape, violence and intimidation.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for Adhoc, said officials last month began investigating an NGO identified as the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, after receiving complaints from eight people claiming to represent 57 families from two villages in Choam Khsan district.
Chan Soveth said Adhoc officials had so far been unable to verify claims that DARPO officials had raped and beaten villagers.
“However we found this NGO was illegal, in that it used social land concessions the wrong way, and used incorrect procedures, such as extorting money from people while distributing plots of land to villagers,” he said.
He said the land was supposed to have been distributed to villagers free of charge.
Por Mok, a 74-year-old village representative, said yesterday that in 2007, DARPO officials confiscated more than 100 hectares of land that residents of Sa Em and Kantout villages had been farming since 2005.
“When this NGO came in 2007, it claimed that it had received more than 500 hectares of land concessions from the government and then grabbed all the land from my family,” he said.
Khim Khon, a 50-year-old village representative, said that last year she had been threatened and beaten by a group of unidentified men after complaining that her daughter, then 13 years old, was raped by a security guard working for the DARPO.
“My daughter was raped, and when I filed a complaint to the NGO, they put me in handcuffs and held me overnight at the NGO’s security house,” she said.
“Both I and my daughter were beaten with an electrical wire and ordered to drop the case.”
Pen Loem, president of DARPO, yesterday denied all allegations against the NGO. He said the government had granted DARPO a 556 hectare social land concession in 2007 that was to be used to help “vulnerable poor people”.
“I distributed plots of land to about 2,000 families, and I devoted my personal property of over US$500,000 to build a school, a health centre and wells for them,” he said.
Chan Soveth said Adhoc would continue investigations into the complaints.