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Activists ignore summonses

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Mother Nature co-founder San Mala delivers a presentation earlier this month in Phnom Penh on dredging activities in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district. Vireak Mai

Activists ignore summonses

Authorities in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor district said yesterday they will take legal action against three environmental activists summonsed on Friday over their refusal to answer questions about their supposed involvement in a protest against Vietnamese corporations involved in sand dredging.

Botum Sakor district police chief Sok Phom said that despite calling in San Mala, Try Vokikea and Yeun Dinit – all activists affiliated with the NGO Mother Nature – for questioning on August 14, the three have failed to comply with the request.

Details about who issued the complaint and what the testimony is to cover remain hazy, and Phom refused to give further details about the case.

Koh Kong provincial police chief Somkhit Vean said the complaint emerged after the activists boarded and towed sand dredging boats during a protest against companies International Rainbow and Direct Access.

“If they do not agree to testify in relation to the allegations, the police will ask for [permission] from the prosecutor” to take further legal action, he said. “The case depends on the court’s procedures.”

The summonses are in relation to a previous protest by Mother Nature and community members in Botum Sakor’s Andong Teuk commune, in which they demonstrated against what they deemed “illegal” sand dredging activities that negatively impacted the community’s homes, fishing activities and environmental stability.

On Saturday, 10 activists with Mother Nature continued their protest by hanging a banner against sand dredging and handcuffing themselves to a fence to await authorities, but no arrests were made.

Mother Nature activist San Mala said he and his colleagues ignored the summonses because they believed they had not engaged in any illegal activities.

“If they want to arrest us, we will not escape.

We will be here waiting for them to arrest us because we have done nothing against the law, and our actions are protecting natural resources . . . We welcome the authorities’ procedures,” he said.

Botum Sakor District Governor Orn Pheareak said in late July that the firms were operating legally and that the group’s campaign was affecting their property and finances.

Meanwhile, Pich Siyun, the director of Koh Kong’s Mines and Energy Department, said the companies had not broken the conditions of their licences.

International Rainbow and Direct Access could not be reached for comment.

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