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Cambodia: Free Human Rights Defenders
Letter by William Gomes Salem-News.com
Messrs Ou Virak, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha, all questioned over land rights activism.
Cambodia flag photo courtesy: CIA
(SALEM) - A number of Cambodian land rights activists were have been summoned and questioned by police for their advocacy.
Cambodia has no reasonable excuse for the excessive government attention being applied to Human Rights Defenders Messrs Ou Virak, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha.
In fact two of those in police custody; Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy, have been on the government's radar since they began investigating the land conflict between local ethnic minority groups in 1998.
Villagers from the disputed land complained that a company had illegally grabbed their land. The villagers are essentially powerless against the business interests.
Our Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes believes that the summon against the four human rights defenders is directly related to their work in the defence of human rights, in particular on land rights and the rights of ethnic minorities.
He is urging Cambodian officials to immediately drop the investigation against Ou Virak, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy, and Sok Ratha as it is believed that it is solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.
H.M. Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom SIHAMONI
King; Supreme Commander of the Cambodian National Armed Forces
Office of the King
I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com.
I came to know about the situation from Front Line Defenders
Human rights defenders Mr Ou Virak, Mr Pen Bonnar, Mr Chhay Thy, and Mr Sok Ratha have been summoned to appear for questioning on charges of incitement to commit a crime. Ou Virak was summoned to the court on 8 October 2012 while the other three defenders appeared in the court the following day. The deputy prosecutor spent around fifteen minutes questioning each one of them. They were subsequently allowed to leave, but no decision has been taken whether or not the case will be dropped.
Ou Virak is President of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy are provincial coordinator and investigator of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), and Sok Ratha is a reporter with Radio Free Asia who regularly reports about land rights violations cases in Cambodia.
The human rights defenders have been summoned by Mr Chea Sopheak, the deputy prosecutor at Ratannakiri Provincial Court, on the basis of a complaint reportedly submitted by Mr Kith Chem, the commune chief of the Cambodian Peoples’ Party in Batang village, Lumphat District, Ratannakiri Province. Kith Chem alleges that Ou Virak, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha have incited members of an ethnic group to violently protest against agro-business group D.M. Group in 2009. The complaint filed against the four human rights defenders is reportedly related to the ongoing land dispute in Lumphat district between D.M. Group and 136 families of indigenous Tumpuan people concerning a 260-hectare area of land.
Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy have been investigating the land conflict between local ethnic minority groups since 1998. In 2007, the villagers from the disputed land complained to ADHOC that the company had illegally grabbed their land. Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy were assigned by ADHOC to help with the legal consultation.
I believe that the summon against the four human rights defenders is directly related to their work in the defence of human rights, in particular on land rights and the rights of ethnic minorities.
I urge the authorities in Cambodia to:
1. Immediately drop the investigation against Ou Virak, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy, and Sok Ratha as it is believed that it is solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;
2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Cambodia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com
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Salem-News.com Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist and author was born on 25 December, 1985 in Dhaka. As an investigative journalist he wrote widely for leading European and Asian media outlets.
He is also active in advocating for free and independent media and journalists’ rights, and is part of the free media movement, Global Independent Media Center – an activist media network for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate telling of the truth. He worked for Italian news agency Asianews.it from year 2009 to 2011, on that time he was accredited as a free lance journalist by the press information department of Bangladesh. During this time he has reported a notable numbers of reports for the news agency which were translated into Chinese and Italian and quoted by notable number of new outlets all over the world.He, ideologically, identifies himself deeply attached with anarchism. His political views are often characterized as “leftist” or “left-wing,” and he has described himself as an individualist anarchist.
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