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Three summoned for questioning in illegal gold-mining probe

Preah Vihear official says rogue operators used banned chemicals to find gold, causing livestock deaths and sickening residents

 Bitter Prospects

In September, ethnic minority villagers and police in Preah Vihear province clashed with illegal gold miners, forcibly confiscating mining equipment. Villagers had complained of skin diseases and livestock deaths as a result of chemical use, police said.

PREAH Vihear provincial court has summoned three men to appear in court next week for questioning after the court received complaints they used banned chemicals for gold mining in Preah Vihear's Rovieng district, killing cows, buffaloes and damaging local residents' health.

Prosecutor Keo Sim said Thursday that he issued a summons January 30 calling Ny Him, Pen Soung and Mao Simoun to appear in court on Thursday to clarify complaints he received from the provincial Department of Industry, Mines and Energy.

"I have called both the suspects and the victims to court. I have not charged the suspects because I need to investigate the case first," he said.

Poisonous activites

King Krida, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture, said Thursday that the authorities had cracked down on a similar operation in 2007 but that the past few months have seen an upswing in unlicensed mining activities.

"They are using chemicals to find gold mines. They are destroying nature, harming people's health and killing cows and buffaloes," he said.

"They have no permission to operate here, and they are violating the law."

Hor Neat, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that Ny Him was the ringleader of the operation, having previously led two groups on similar operations since March 2007.

They have no permission to operate here and they are

violating the law

He said the prospectors had used acid chemicals to erode rock and reveal hidden gold deposits, but that the chemicals had leached into nearby waterways, killing an estimated 17 cows and 143 buffaloes from August to November last year.

Hor Neat added that local residents have become sick from the chemicals, complaining of shortness of breath and other illnesses.

"The court issued a summons because more than 300 people have complained for the authorities to crack down on [this operation] because they are destroying people's health and property. They shall be punished according to the law," he said.

But suspect Ny Him denied the allegations, saying he made a living from a small family business in the area.

"Let them accuse me. I do not use any chemicals, and my operation has not yet started. Other people used chemicals last year, but they have stopped doing it since then," he said.

"I will go to court to tell them I have done nothing wrong."



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