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Group Claims Activist Unjustly Summoned

Leaders of a group representing the Khmer Kampuchea Krom people say authorities in Takeo province tricked itinerant members of the group into endorsing a complaint against a provincial activist.

Takeo provincial court has summoned Son Savang to clarify a charge that he faked a letter, Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Friendship Association, told VOA Thursday.

If he appears, the activist, Son Savang, could be in danger, because authorities allegedly tricked a large number of the group into putting their fingerprints to a false indictment, he said.

Government officials confirmed the summons Thursday, but dismissed Ang Chanrith's concerns.

The rights of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom people have been highly politicized in recent weeks as the country heads toward commune elections, and motives of activists and officials alike are often unclear. But the ethnic group is a political rallying point, as some Cambodians feel the Mekong Delta region where many of them live rightfully belongs to Cambodia.

Long Sareth, chief of Preah Bath Chuan Chum District, told VOA that officials had questioned a group of Khmer Kampuchea Krom who recently had moved into the area, and their independent answers led them to summon Son Savang.

"We just asked whether they came to look for harvesting work or for some other reason," Long Sareth said. "We read their answer to them, and they had their fingerprints taken. There were no threats."

Takeo court prosecutor Chey Sophal said he planned to summon Son Savang for questioning soon.

Forty-eight Khmer Kampuchea Krom people left their homes in Vietnam Feb. 11 and arrived in the district, officials said.

They may have been looking for farm work, but their visit coincided with a demonstration for Khmer Kampuchea Krom rights at the Vietnam Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Following the demonstration, a monk belonging to the ethnic group was found dead with his throat cut.

"The authorities do not consider Son Savang as helping those people," Ang Chanrith said. "Instead they threaten the people who are illiterate. The authorities do not understand the situation and file charges against our activist."