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Youth activists’ landlord called in for questioning

Armed police arrest four activists on Sunday after shutting down a screening of an Al Jazeera-produced short documentary on Kem Ley’s murder in Phnom Penh.
Armed police arrest four activists on Sunday after shutting down a screening of an Al Jazeera-produced short documentary on Kem Ley’s murder in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Youth activists’ landlord called in for questioning

Four youths briefly detained on Sunday for attempting to screen an Al Jazeera documentary calling into question the official narrative of Kem Ley’s murder are claiming that Tuol Sangke commune officials tried to intimidate their landlord into evicting them from the residence in which the documentary was to be shown.

The landlord, speaking on condition of anonymity yesterday, said that she admitted to the authorities that she did not notify the commune when she decided to rent the residence to the youths.

“Commune authorities invited me for interrogation this morning and I went,” she said. “The authorities asked for the land title and said that [tenants] have to present identity cards and four photos and the current landlord should have an identity card, a photo and the land title.”

According to the landlord, commune chief Soy Sophal told her if she rented the residence to people without notifying commune authorities, “when the people renting the house commit something wrong, the landlord has to take the responsibility”. Sophal could not be reached for comment.

The landlord said that she does not actually own the building but was entrusted with its care by the owner, who lives abroad, adding that she signed a contract to rent the residence to the four youths for a year beginning last September.

“In the past, why did the authorities never ask [about this]?” asked Moung Sony, director of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association, which organised the aborted screening. “But after I planned to show the video about Kem Ley’s murder, the authorities interrogated her. This is intimidation.”

Sony said that he will present his photo and identity card to the landlord for the authorities to check.

Meanwhile, Naly Pilorge, of rights group Licadho, challenged authorities’ interpretation of the law, saying landlords couldn’t be held accountable for their tenants and that the screening of the film wasn’t unlawful in the first place.

“The only responsibilities vis-à-vis authorities [and] the house owner are rental taxes,” Pilorge said. “There is no official law or notice by authorities or ministries that the Al Jazeera documentary is illegal, as it’s a public documentary done by independent media, freely available on social media and elsewhere.”

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