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Two Rights Workers Under Investigation

Banteay Meanchey provincial police on Friday began an investigation into two local rights workers who were supporting 100 protesters in their demands for the release of two jailed men.

In April, Banteay Meanchey provincial court charged Van Saroeun and Kloeung Da for committing armed robbery, killing one man and injuring another, in a robbery in Poipet in April.

In July, protesters built a small camp in front of the court, demanding the release of the two men.

Under order from the provincial court, police questioned Ung Samith, from Licadho, and Pen Bonlay, from Vigilance of Cambodia, after both helped distribute food to the protesters.

“If the two human rights representatives know about armed robbers and they still helped support and supply the protesters…it will be a problem, because we hate armed robbers very much,” said Hun Hean, Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief.

“If they know that the group is really a group of armed robbers, and they help support them, it is a problem of law. If it is a humanitarian gift, it is no problem.”

Licadho’s Ung Samith said he told police about a distribution of water, rice, and canned fish, “for humanitarian purposes.”

“The principle of Licadho is to help victims and the vulnerable,” he said. Sun Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the authorities seemed to be threatening “the spirit of human rights workers” by frightening them into hesitation.

“This process worries the non-governmental organizations’ rights workers…because it was just a food distribution,” he said. “The human rights workers have been questioned and investigated. This could be an investigation toward a charge of incitement.”

Hun Hean said the provincial police promoted respect for human rights.