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(Bangkok) – A Cambodian Human Rights Watch said today that the court dropped politically motivated charges against three land rights activists on May 22, 2023. The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release him.

Ratanakiri Municipal Court charged against three employees of the Cambodian Farmers Community Coalition (CCFC), a community organization that protects the land rights of farmers. The court charged them with conspiracy and abetment under sections 453 (plotting), 494, and 495 (abetment to commit felony). Cambodian Criminal Code, and ordered them to be placed in pre-trial detention. If convicted on all charges, the three activists could face 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine.

“fabricating these bogus charges against the chief civil society Leaders show how far the government is willing to go to silence critics ahead of Cambodia’s elections in July Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “There should be a chorus of international condemnation targeting Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government for demanding an end to these scare tactics.”

The authorities detained Theng Savoun, president of the farmers’ group; Nell Phepp, a senior officer; and Thanh Hutch, a project officer, on May 17 as they traveled to Phnom Penh after conducting an internal team building and training workshop in Ratanakiri province.

Based on information officials said they found about the workshop, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sophek accused the CCFC of “starting”.Kisan Kranti, He claimed, without presenting any evidence, that the three CCFC leaders were involved in revolutionary activities that led to the deaths of millions of Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

The media reported that the police Stopped the bus carrying the employees of the organization And pulled 17 employees from the bus. The police interrogated him continuously from around 1 pm till around 10 am the next day. The questions reportedly focused on the content and focus of the training workshop.

While the other employees were released, the police continued to hold the three leaders. The three were briefly allowed access to a lawyer on 19 May, but the police did not allow them to meet in private, a right guaranteed by international human rights law and Article 98. Cambodian Criminal Procedure Code, Lawyers were barred from meeting the three as the questioning continued through the weekend.

CCFC works to support the land rights of farmers across the country. On 18 May, CCFC communities organized and traveled to Phnom Penh to protest publicly, calling for the release of their detained leaders. However, in Koh Kong province, police intercepted a minivan carrying members of the group and prevented them from leaving the province. On May 19, More than 200 farmers from five provinces gathered in front of the Ministry of the Interior With a petition demanding the immediate release of Savoun and two of his associates.

“Cambodia’s human rights situation has been spiraling steadily downward to the point where the government responds to any challenge, real or perceived, with maximum displays of intimidation and punishment,” Robertson said. “The campaign begins at the top, with Prime Minister Hun Sen as he chases another rigged electoral mandate from one rigged election.”

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