A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

CCHR Open Letter to His Excellency Sar Kheng re the misconduct of a police officer in Koh Kong Province

His Excellency Sar Kheng
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister, Ministry of Interior

25 December 2012

CCHR Requests immediate investigation into the misconduct of a police officer
Your Excellency,

On 14 December 2012 in Prek Chik Village, Chikhor Kroum Commune, Sre Ambel District, Koh Kong Province, a police officer from Chikhor Le Communal Administrative Police Post made threatening comments to a Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) staff and attempted to confiscate his camera, whilst he, along with other members of staff from CCHR were observing events relating to a land dispute. It appeared that the police officer was acting under the instructions of the owner of Heng Huy Agriculture Group Co. Ltd (the “Company”).

At approximately 9:30 am on the morning of 14 December 2012, the police officer, whose name is Ngi Sokhon, who was dressed in camouflage uniform and equipped with an AK47 machine gun, chased Mr. Vann Sophath and threatened to confiscate his camera. He had attended the site in his capacity as CCHR’s Land Reform Project (“LRP”) Coordinator in order to monitor the activities at Prek Chik Village, where villagers were asking the Company to stop bulldozing a cashew nut plantation which one of the villagers claimed to own. The CCHR team had been informed by the villagers that they were still trying to resolve various issues relating to the ownership of the site when the Company started bulldozing the site. The police officer was responding to a direct order of the Company’s owner, Mr. Heng Huy, who asked the officer to confiscate Mr. Vann Sophath’s camera in order to destroy the evidence of the bulldozing of the cashew nut plantation. During the incident, Mr. Heng Huy also threatened Mr. Vann Sophath by saying “If you publish anything about today´s happenings, you will face serious problems with me.”

It is both improper and unlawful for a police officer to take direct orders from a civilian as was the case during this incident. Neither the police officer nor Mr Heng Huy had any authority to confiscate Mr. Vann Sophath’s property. The conduct of the police officer and Mr. Heng Huy was unlawful on the following grounds:

1. Article 70 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Kingdom of Cambodia (“CCPC”) states that “judicial police officers receive or ask for orders only from judicial authorities”. In this case, the police officer was taking orders from a civilian and not from any judicial authority.

2. In chasing Mr. Vann Sophath and attempting to confiscate his camera with no legal authority to do so, the police officer’s actions are an attempt to extort under Article 363 of the CCPC.

3. In urging the police officer to take Mr. Vann Sophath camera and in assisting him by making threats towards Mr. Vann Sophath, Mr. Heng Huy’s actions amount to an offence under Article 28 of the CCPC, namely, that he incited the officer to commit an offence against Mr. Vann Sophath.

4. In addition to the violation of the penal law, the actions of both the police officer and the Mr Heng Huy constitute a violation of Article 41 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which protects the rights of every citizen to “freedom of expression of their ideas, freedom of information, freedom of publication and freedom of assembly”.

In light of the above information, I respectfully request that a full investigation is conducted into the actions and conduct of the police officer, Mr Ngi Sokhon and that the appropriate legal action is taken, including laying charges against the officer, in an objective and impartial manner in accordance with the law of the Kingdom of Cambodia. I hope and trust that you will act with transparency and fairness, and in accordance with the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Yours sincerely,

Ou Virak
President, Cambodia Center for Human Rights

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