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Groups File Suit Against Provincial Court

A coalition of rights groups on Friday filed suit with the Supreme Council of Magistracy, alleging the Ratanakkiri provincial court had worked in concert with a private company to seize hundreds of hectares of land from minorities in one district.

The suit alleges judicial misconduct from court officials who have strong relations with a company identified as DM, and alleges land grabs in Tumpuon and Batang villages in Lum Phat district in 2005.

“Enough is enough,” Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said in a statement. “Human rights NGOs will stand by the affected indigenous communities, stand by the human rights activists [who have been] harassed, and demand an end to judicial misconduct in Ratanakkiri province.”

“We will not be silenced,” he said.

Villagers have lost between 250 and 300 hectares of farmland, the groups said.

The groups, including the CCHR, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, and Licadho, demanded an end to land grabs and the harassment of rights defenders, such as Adhoc’s Pen Bonnar, who was recently relocated from the province at the urging of the court, which threatened legal action if he remained.

Pao Ham Phan, Ratanakiri provincial governor denied the allegations.

“I have not seen harassment of rights defenders or indigenous land grabs,” he said. “Local human rights groups have the right to speak. They can continue to speak. But we do the right thing. We continue to do so.”