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21 Sep 2021

Khuon Narim, CamboJA

Cambodia: Ratanakiri Court detain an environment activist on charges of clearing state forest land; NGOs claim the activist is targeted

"R’kiri environmental activist imprisoned for allegedly clearing forest land", 21 September 2021

Environmental activist Chhorn Phalla was arrested and placed in pretrial detention in Ratanakiri province … on charges of clearing state forest land ... Phalla had returned to the province … after being allegedly attacked and beaten at a public forum …

Provincial court spokesman Keo Pisoth confirmed that investigating judge Chhun Chanseiha had ordered Phalla to be sent to pretrial detention.

“He has now been sent to prison on charges of illegally encroaching on state forest land,” he said.

… His 37-year-old wife Kham Salong, a member of the Tumpoun ethnic minority, told CamboJA on Monday that her husband was innocent of the charges against him.

“He did nothing wrong related to encroaching on state land,” she said. She added that both she and her husband had been cultivating about nine hectares of land they had inherited from their parents.

Salong said that Phalla had been told by a security guard to go to the commune police station to correct his Khmer ID card for voting in the upcoming commune election. Upon arrival, he was taken to the district police station at around 10AM.

“It is unjust, because they came to arrest him without showing an arrest warrant,” she said.

… Den Khornny, provincial coordinator at rights Adhoc, who is monitoring the case, said he was disappointed that the activist had been arrested without being shown a warrant or told why he was being detained.

… Adhoc president Ny Sokha said that he believed Phalla’s arrest was meant to silence the voices of environmental activists who were working to protect Cambodia’s forests and natural resources.