Representatives from the UN human rights office in Phnom Penh urged Ratanakkiri Provincial Court to hasten their investigation of three men charged with human trafficking for assisting Montagnard asylum seekers, a court official said.
The UN agency also called on the court to set bail for Andong Meas district villagers Thol Mnguyen, Kralan Phoeung and Rocham Hloeur, who were arrested April 20 and later accused of taking money in return for helping “illegal immigrants,” Investigating Judge An Samnang said.
An Samnang said that the men are accused of taking the equivalent of about $125 to help 18 Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam, who are now under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Kenrik Stenman, acting representative for the UN center for human rights, said he did not yet have information from his team in Ratanakkiri and declined to comment.
Villagers protesting the men’s innocence have said that the three only accepted the money to buy food and other supplies for the group of asylum seekers as they hid in Cambodia’s forests. An Samnang said that he must question a fourth man charged with human trafficking, Sev Thol, before he can make a decision regarding bail for the three men.
“The UN can convince him [Sev Thol] to go to court because I must question him. After that I will consider the request,” An Samnang said. Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, who was also briefly accused and detained for alleged human trafficking for assisting Montagnard asylum seekers in 2004, said that the accused men are innocent.
The money the men received was spent on food for the asylum seekers, he added. “It is not against the law to take the money to buy [goods] for them. It is normal,” Pen Bonnar said.
Adapted from: "UN Urges R’kiri Court To Act on Trafficking Case." Cambodia Daily. May 4, 2007.
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