Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Battambang Court of Appeal Questions Three Villagers Relating To Apsara Authority’s Lawsuit

About 100 Siem Reap villagers gathered at Battambang Court of Appeal to support the three people who were being questioned on February 29, 2024. (CamboJA/Sok Savy)
About 100 Siem Reap villagers gathered at Battambang Court of Appeal to support the three people who were being questioned on February 29, 2024. (CamboJA/Sok Savy)

The regional Court of Appeal in Battambang province on Thursday questioned three villagers from around Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, who were accused of incitement for allegedly posting an Apsara National Authority notice on social media.

Last year, Apsara authority filed a complaint against three residents Luy Socheat, Phan Salin and Sok Pov for incitement for allegedly posting the notice on the removal of illegal structures in Ampil commune’s Bakorng village last year. The three also urged other villagers to join a protest.

Some 100 villagers traveled by bus to the regional Appeal Court to protest on Thursday, calling court officials to drop all charges against three residents in Bakorng district.

The case against the three is an appeal by Apsara authority after a decision to hold their case by Siem Reap provincial deputy prosecutor Lay Nisay on November 30, according to the court warrant obtained by CamboJA. But, the court did not reveal a specific reason.

Sok Pov told CamboJA that prosecutor Kong Chamkhemrin questioned him regarding the information posted on Facebook in relation to Apsara authory’s notice to remove illegal structures of villagers.

“The court allowed us to return home after questioning, and he [Kong Chankhemrin] said [we] don’t need to be worried about an arrest,” he said. “I didn’t commit what they [Apsara authority] accused me of because I shared the information.”

Battambang Court of Appeal spokesperson Teang Sambo confirmed that three villages were questioned for incitement at the court but declined to comment further. She asked that questions be referred to the spokesperson for prosecutor Ream Chanmony. However, the spokesperson declined to comment.

Chea Kosal, one of villagers who came to support the three, said the accusation by Apsara authority is “unreasonable” as they had only shared information, which is not the same as incitement.

“The accusation is unfair because sharing information isn’t an offense. We are angry, which is why we have come here to support them,” Kosal said.

He called on the Battambang Court of Appeal to uphold the provincial court decision, which had correctly decided to hold the case.

Local NGO Licadho rights supervisor In Kongchet expressed disappointment that Apsara authority took the case to a higher level after the provincial court’s decision.

“They are not guilty of posting the notification letters of Apsara National Authority. It is like sharing information to their community, so it’s not an offense [or] did not commit a felony,” he said.

“[If] Apsara authority continues to sue them, it will cause them to live in fear due to the court process,” Konchet said. “It also affects their livelihood as they have to travel to court.”

He urged Apsara authority to stop suing the villagers and consider settling the issue.

Apsara National Authority deputy director-general Long Kosal could not be reached for comment.