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Prominent Human Rights Activist Called to Court for Alleged Violence

Prominent human rights worker Sam Ath speaking to reporters, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Prominent human rights worker Sam Ath was beaten at the Habitat Day march by security forces in front of numerous witnesses, including media.

Prominent human rights worker Am Sam Ath has been summoned to appear in court over allegations of violence against security forces at a World Habitat Day march in Phnom Penh late last year.

The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (Licadho) said in a statement on Tuesday that Sam Ath was called to the Municipal Court along with Boeung Kak Lake activist Chan Puthisak.

They were due to appear in front of prosecutor Ngin Pich on Wednesday after complaints were filed by Som Sotheara and Tet Chantho, two district security guards.

Licadho director Thav Kimsan said there were serious doubts about the veracity of the allegations.

“We are concerned. But at the same time that we feel concerned, we are skeptical and we feel it’s ridiculous and upside down. Black turned to white and white turned to black,” he said.

Ly Sophanna, a court spokesman, did not answer questions about the summons, saying only that the court was reviewing evidence.

Sam Ath was beaten at the Habitat Day march by security forces in front of numerous witnesses, including media.

“It’s very shameful for them [police] because other people got all the evidence, and they didn’t conduct a good investigation to search for the truth,” he said.

Licadho said that the para-police force had blocked the march and confiscated musical instruments and banners from the marchers before launching an “unprovoked, violent and targeted attack on Chan Puthisak, who was filming the march. Am Sam Ath then attempted to peacefully de-escalate the situation and end the violence under his mandate as a human rights monitor.”

“Para-police immediately launched a similarly unprovoked and targeted attack, surrounding Am Sam Ath and punching him in the face and neck repeatedly,” the Licadho statement added.

Puthisak said he doubted the police investigation was carried out with a view to finding the truth.

“This is not acceptable because we are the victims but we were turned into suspects. We don’t know how the authorities worked on the reports and sent them to the court,” he said.

Huot Chan Yurann, chief of Daun Penh district police, declined to comment.