CSOs seek ac­tivists’ re­lease

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Leonie Ki­jew­ski and Kong Meta

AGROUP of more than 20 or­gan­i­sa­tions yes­ter­day called for the re­lease of two Mother Na­ture ac­tivists who have been held in pre­trial de­ten­tion with no trial date sched­uled for more than two months, al­legedly in poor con­di­tions.

In a state­ment re­leased yes­ter­day and signed by 22 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing Ad­hoc, the Cam­bo­dian Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights and Li­cadho, ad­vo­cates “call for the im­me­di­ate re­lease of Hun Van­nak and Doem Kundy . . . who have been wrong­fully de­tained for over two months on spu­ri­ous charges”.

The two ac­tivists were ar­rested on Septem­ber 13 shortly af­ter they filmed two al­leged sand-bear­ing ships on the open ocean. They were charged with in­cite­ment and mak­ing unau­tho­rised record­ings of a per­son in “a pri­vate place”.

Ac­cord­ing to a Face­book post by Van­nak, the ves­sels were about 4 kilo­me­tres from a Special Eco­nomic Zone be­long­ing to ty­coon and rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party Sen­a­tor Ly Yong Phat. If found guilty, the pair face up to two years in prison for in­cite­ment, and one year and a fine of up to $500 for unau­tho­rised record­ing.

Mother Na­ture co-founder Ale­jan­dro David­son-Gon­za­lez yes­ter­day said that the pair’s de­ten­tion was ar­bi­trary. “[It is] in­dica­tive of the level of power that ty­coons such as Ly Yong Phat have over state or­gans such as the ju­di­ciary, who are in cases like this noth­ing but tools of re­pres­sion against those dar­ing to speak the truth,” he said.

Mother Na­ture, which has doc­u­mented and crit­i­cised sand dredg­ing on the coast for years, was re­moved from the Min­istry of In­te­rior’s NGO reg­istry on Septem­ber 15 at the re­quest of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, a move David­son-Gon­za­lez at­trib­uted to re­peated ha­rass­ment of the group’s mem­bers.

Van­nak’s mother Ty Mary, 56, also called for the re­lease of her son yes­ter­day. “My son didn’t do any­thing wrong to de­serve to be in jail,” she said.

Mary said she would meet Van­nak today af­ter hav­ing last seem him at the end of last month, and added that he had con­tracted skin dis­eases and a sore throat since be­ing im­pris­oned.

For­mer Mother Na­ture ac­tivist Lim Kim­sor said she and the fam­i­lies were only al­lowed to visit the pair twice a month now – on the 15th and 30th of each month.

Kim­sor at­trib­uted the skin dis­ease to over­crowd­ing; she said 25 pris­on­ers were crammed into a small cell with the toi­let in the same room. “It’s very dif­fi­cult for them,” she said.

Vis­its, mean­while, were mon­i­tored by au­thor­i­ties, Kim­sor said. “We can­not talk about any­thing im­por­tant, be­cause ev­ery time po­lice sur­round us,” she said, adding that she would sub­mit a pe­ti­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen next week ask­ing for their re­lease.

Provin­cial prison chief Trey Bun­tha could not be reached yes­ter­day.

David­son-Gon­za­les said Van­nak and Kundy’s de­ten­tion served to de­ter ac­tivism. “Their on­go­ing de­ten­tion is noth­ing but a mes­sage to hun­dreds of other ac­tivists that they can be sent to jail, de­spite any lack of wrong­do­ing, if they poke their noses into the dirty busi­nesses of the mafia-like groups that con­trol Cam­bo­dia,” he said.

Court spokesman Un So­van Theany said that judges were now ques­tion­ing the ac­tivists, but that he did not know when their hear­ing would be.


Two Mother Na­ture ac­tivists ar­rested for shoot­ing video of two ships sus­pected to be car­ry­ing sand are taken into Koh Kong Provin­cial Court in Septem­ber.

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