K Kong ac­tivists charged

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Phak Sean­gly and Shaun Tur­ton

TWO Mother Na­ture ac­tivists ar­rested af­ter film­ing sus­pected sand-bear­ing ves­sels have been charged with in­cite­ment and mak­ing unau­tho­rised record­ings of a per­son in “a pri­vate place” – an of­fence that drew scep­ti­cism yes­ter­day, given they were in their own boat in the open ocean when cap­tur­ing the footage.

The ac­tivists, Dem Kundy and Hun Van­nak, were seized in their boat off the coast of Koh Kong prov­ince on Tues­day, about 10 kilo­me­tres from where they had been film­ing the ships, ac­cord­ing to the driver of their speed­boat. The pair were charged yes­ter­day by the Koh Kong Pro­vin­cial Court.

Court spokesman Un So­van Theany de­scribed the charges as one count each of vi­o­la­tion of pri­vacy and in­cite­ment to com­mit a crime, though he de­clined to name the crime the pair had al­legedly in­cited.

“The in­ves­ti­gat­ing judge de­cided to put them in prison to keep them to con­tinue the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Theany added.

In­cite­ment car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of two years, while vi­o­la­tion of pri­vacy – de­scribed in the Crim­i­nal Code as “record­ing the im­age of a per­son who is in a pri­vate place with­out the . . . con­sent of the per­son” – car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of one year and a fine up to $500.

Fol­low­ing his ar­rest, Van­nak posted on Face­book that the ves­sels they were film­ing were about 4 kilo­me­tres from rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party Sen­a­tor Ly Yong Phat’s spe­cial eco­nomic zone in Kiri Sakor dis­trict’s Prek Ksach com­mune.

Mother Na­ture founder Alex Gon­za­lez-David­son yes­ter­day said the ac­tivists were be­tween 500 me­tres and 1 kilo­me­tre from the ships they were film­ing, which were sus­pected to be ready to trans­port sil­ica sand.

Mother Na­ture on Mon­day pub­lished a video on­line ex­pos­ing huge dis­crep­an­cies in sil­ica sand trade fig­ures with Tai­wan, high­light­ing more than $30 mil­lion in un­doc­u­mented and po­ten­tially il­le­gal ex­ports, ac­cord­ing to the group.

The rev­e­la­tions fol­low sim­i­lar scan­dals with sand ex­ports to Sin­ga­pore and In­dia.

Gon­za­lez-David­son said the ships ap­peared not to be broad­cast­ing an Au­to­matic Iden­tifi- cation Sys­tem sig­nal, mean­ing they did not show up on on­line ship track­ing data­bases. “This [ar­rest] is likely in re­tal­i­a­tion for the ex­cel­lent work the two guys have been do­ing ex­pos­ing the cor­rup­tion and sys­tem­atic fraud be­hind the ex­trac­tion and ex­port of sand,” Gon­za­lez-David­son said, call­ing the charges “com­pletely base­less”.

Van­nak and Kundy have both been ar­rested be­fore in con­nec­tion to their ac­tivism.

Speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity yes­ter­day, a pro­vin­cial po­lice of­fi­cer said the vi­o­la­tion of pri­vacy charge had been brought by Yong Phat, though the po­lice­man said he be­lieved the charge was not rel­e­vant. “They did not af­fect the com­pany’s land be­cause they took the pic­tures from a boat.”

Yong Phat’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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