A land rights activist who went missing for more than two months has turned up after being spotted in Preah Sihanouk province where he was working in construction, officials have claimed.
Sum Moeun’s disappearance prompted concern from rights groups including Human Rights Watch, who suspected Moeun had “disappeared” by state security forces over his activism.
But the Preah Vihear local’s reappearance appears to have put to bed the suggestion that the security forces were involved in his absence from public life.
Officials say they launched an investigation into Moeun’s alleged disappearance, only to discover he had been working temporary jobs in the coastal province. The authorities had previously claimed that Moeun had escaped detention in Preah Vihear province after he was held for opposing a local development project backed by the military.
Am Sam Ath, a monitoring manager at local rights group Licadho, said on Monday that Moeun had met with rights groups and the United Nations on March 31.
“It’s a surprising story, not only for civil society groups or the authorities, because it dragged on for two months and we didn’t have any news from him,” he said.
Moeun had been involved in a land dispute in Preah Vihear province in which his son and several other activists were arrested.
A report from Licadho on March 21 noted that Moeun was also detained by the authorities on January 20 by soldiers from Battalion 261 under Intervention Brigade 6 who were acting as private security guards for the Choam Ksan district concessionaire at the heart of the dispute. Witnesses reported that Moeun was beaten during his arrest
Moeun was transferred to a local national park office before disappearing, with wildlife officials claiming he ran away.
No charges have been filed against Moeun. He could not be reached for comment this week.
Yong Kimhoeung, head of the Preah Vihear provincial cabinet office, declined to comment further on the circumstances of his disappearance.
Chea Kimseng, the Choam Ksan district governor, also could not be reached.