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Rights Worker Facing Lawsuit for Comments on Land Dispute

Hundreds of demonstrators from villages around Beoung Kak lake gathered to protest against land evictions, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - A local official for the ruling party has filed a lawsuit against a prominent rights investigator for remarks made about an ongoing land dispute in Pursat province.

Prom Ngoun, chief of Thmor Da commune, Veal Veng district, made the complaint against Chan Soveth, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, following a press conference about a land dispute in his area.

In the complaint, Prom Ngoun accuses Chan Soveth of defamation and incitement, both criminal offenses that carry potential jail sentences.

Tonn Sihak Tekcheas, Pursat court prosecutor, said he had received the complaint but taken no action. “I’ve asked him to provide more evidence,” the prosecutor said.

Adhoc says it is concerned the lawsuit is an attempt to stop an investigation into the land dispute.

Cambodia’s rights workers say they are often harassed with court threats, making it hard for them to speak out about their work or continue investigations—at a time when land disputes are becoming a growing problem in both urban and rural areas.

Chan Soveth was similarly charged in Phnom Penh last year, in what rights officials called an attempt at intimidation over a land dispute in Kratie province.