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Mourning Begins for Loss of Rights Defender

Mr. Chan Soveth, left, Department Chief of Investigation Unit of Adhoc and Mrs. Un Sophy, a representative of Lor Peang Community in Kampong Chhnang province.

Local rights workers, family, friends and dignitaries on Thursday attended a mourning ceremony for rights worker Chan Soveth, who died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack.

Chan Soveth’s remains were on display at the Koul Ta Tung pagoda, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, where many gathered to mourn his passing.

Chan Soveth, who was 51, was a major figure in the Cambodian rights movement, and rights workers say his loss will be felt across the country.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, where Chan Soveth was the chief investigator, said he had felt ill since hearing the news. “To lose Chan Soveth means a big loss for Adhoc, and for civil society and the poor,” he said.

Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said he was praying that Chan Soveth would find peace. Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy called him a “symbol for our souls.”

Chan Puthisak, a land activist from the Beoung Kak lake community, said Chan Soveth had helped him “tirelessly.” “It will be difficult to find another person like him,” he said.