An environmental activist from Koh Kong’s Areng Valley yesterday appeared before the Supreme Court to appeal a suspended one-year prison sentence for illegally “collecting forest products”.
Environmental activist Ven Vorn, 37, was arrested in October 2015 and accused by the Koh Kong Forestry Administration of violating the Forestry Law. He was given a suspended one-year sentence in March 2016 and his appeal was rejected in September.
Vorn was arrested after buying wood he said was to be used in construction of a community centre. Vorn yesterday told Judge Kem Sathavy he bought the timber from a trader who he thought was operating legally, since no authorities had stopped him.
“The timber that I bought was for the construction of a community station to serve public interest,” he said. “I ask the court to reject the verdict.”
Addressing the press after the hearing, Vorn said the court had sentenced him “unfairly”, as he had “not logged the forest, while the huge traders usually are free from arrest and punishment”.
Vorn previously had been involved in protests against the proposed Sinohydro Resources Ltd dam, alongside deported Mother Nature founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson.
Vorn was arrested on October 7, 2015, and charged with breaches of Article 98 of the Forestry Law, which sets out a jail term between one and five years and a fine from 10 million to 100 million riel for the “collection of forest products without authorisation”.
But Deputy Prosecutor Chhuon Chantha said the sentence was just. “I also uphold the verdict,” he said.
Defense lawyer Toek Thearo said that his client had just bought the timber to build a community center and had never been involved in logging.
“I ask the court to return the case back to the Appeal Court,” he said.
A verdict is due June 28.