The international watchdog Frontline Defenders has called on Cambodian authorities to drop a defamation lawsuit against a prominent human rights worker.
Ny Chakrya, head of legal assistance for the rights group Adhoc, is facing a suit filed by two court officials in Siem Reap province last month, after he spoke to local media about a land dispute there.
Under Cambodian law, defamation is considered a criminal act, punishable by jail time and fines. Critics of the law say it allows for retributive lawsuits by officials who may feel slighted by public criticism.
“Frontline Defenders express its grave concern at the judicial harassment of human rights defender Ny Chakrya, and the court summons issued against him, which it believes to be another attempt to silence human rights defenders in Cambodia and their legitimate work providing support to victims of human rights violations,” the group said in a statement. “Frontline Defenders urges the authorities in Cambodia to 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.”
The lawsuit comes following statements Ny Chakrya made to the Cambodia Daily, saying Adhoc would give legal aid to a community in Siem Reap’s Svay Loeu district, where farmers say they are losing land to a land concession.
Siem Reap provincial court in June sentenced four farmers to two years in prison in the dispute, though their sentences were later suspended. Ny Chakrya said the court’s actions in the dispute were improper.
The suit against him was filed by a deputy prosecutor, Sok Keobandith, and investigating judge Ky Rithy. Neither could not be reached for comment.
Ny Chakrya told VOA Khmer he is preparing to appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 13. “I am ready to show evidence proving what the Siem Reap provincial court did to violate legal procedures,” he said.