Cambodia: community-based WHRDs subject to restrictive measures over false chargesEvent
- Initial Date
- Nov 18, 2020
- Event Description
Two community representatives from Koh Kong province have been placed under judicial supervision as hundreds of community members from Sre Ambel district gathered outside the Koh Kong Court of First Instance to call for the charges against their representatives to be dropped. Both women face up to two years in prison if found guilty.
Phav Nherng and Seng Lin had appeared before an investigating judge on charges of defamation and incitement to disturb social security. The women, who will now have to report monthly to district police, appear when summoned by court authorities and will not be able to move house without the court’s permission, represent almost two hundred families who have had hundreds of hectares of vital farmland seized by the Heng Huy Agriculture Group since 2008 to make way for a sugar plantation.
Both representatives were the target of a complaint launched by former community representative Chhay Vy. Vy’s brother, the late commune chief, was accused by the three women in 2019 of having seized land for himself during the unresolved land dispute. Another woman, Khorn Phun, had also been summoned for questioning over defamation charges. However, judicial supervision is not applicable for this charge.
Ten more community representatives have been put under judicial supervision in connection with the Heng Huy land dispute in the past two weeks alone.
Chhay Vy, a former representative of “Community 175,” a group of villagers in a land dispute with the Heng Huy sugar plantation, accused three residents of incitement and defamation over claims that she was working to sell the community’s land.
After a hearing on Wednesday morning, the Koh Kong Provincial Court placed two of the defendants under court supervision, prohibiting them from changing residences and requiring them to check in with district authorities once a month, according to a monitor at rights group Licadho.
About 200 protesters from six communities gathered outside the court for the hearing.
“She stole the land — I have both witnesses and evidence,” said Pao Nherng, from Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Krom commune.
A group of villagers filed a complaint about Vy to Interior Minister Sar Kheng last year.
Vy responded on Wednesday that she had not sold any community land, and demanded that her accusers present concrete evidence.
“If I do not see the evidence of what they have accused me of, I want them to pay me $20,000 and go to jail for five years,” Vy told VOD.
The three defendants in the case are Nherng, Sen Lin and Khon Phon. Nherng and Lin were placed under court supervision.
Licadho’s Koh Kong provincial coordinator, Hour In, said all three were questioned by judges on Wednesday.
“It is a threat to break the spirit of the people from protesting,” In said.
The court issued a statement saying that Wednesday’s case was unrelated to land disputes.
However, a separate case involving the same sugar plantation was heard at the court the previous day on Tuesday.
The case was brought by Heng Huy against 10 land disputants, five of whom were placed under court supervision on Tuesday. The five others were put under court supervision last week.
Dek Hour, one of the defendants, said the 10 were also accused of incitement and defamation.
The dispute between villagers and Heng Huy is long-standing, with villagers saying land encroachment started in 2007. Villagers were also summoned to court last year for incitement and defamation.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Enactment of repressive legislation and policies
- Judicial Harassment
- Restrictions on Movement
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of movement
- Right to liberty and security
- Community-based HRD
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 18 November 2020, Phav Nherng and Seng Lin, community-based WHRDs, were subject to restrictive measures similar to house arrest while under trial due to pending court case on false charges of incitement and defamation filed before the Court of First Instance in Koh Kong, Cambodia.