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Court releases forest activists accused of trespassing

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People Protesting to free forestry activists that were arrested at Kratie Province. Photo supplied

Court releases forest activists accused of trespassing

The Kratie provincial court on Monday released four forest activists after protesters outside the court demanded their release.

Activist Ouch Leng and three members of the Prey Lang forest community – Khem Sokhy, Srey Thei and Mein Math – were arrested on Friday after Think Biotech (Cambodia) Co Ltd accused them of entering its premises without permission.

Heng Sros, also a forest activist, welcomed the decision.

“This is the right decision, but I also regret that they were detained for three days without any evidence in the first place.

“This shows that what the police want is to break the spirit of forest activists so that people don’t dare to fight for the forest,” he said.

Sros spoke to The Post as he held a sign that read: “Loggers are allowed to walk free but those that protect the forest are arrested.” The sign showed images of the four activists released on Monday.

“The investigative judge and the Kratie provincial prosecutor decided to free the activists but the court has placed them under supervision,” Sros noted.

Neither Kratie provincial court spokesman Tiv Vuth Then nor provincial court deputy prosecutor Chea Sopheak could be reached for comment on Monday.

Leng, a well-known activist and recipient of the Goldman Prize, is also the president of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force.

Sros said the four activists were arrested during a forest patrol. They went to a store located on the company’s property to buy water when company security guards arrested them, using violence against at least one of them.

Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said on Monday that the court is now investigating the guard who used violence against the activist.

Neither Think Biotech director Lu Chu Chang nor company representative Lach Phanno could be reached for comment on Monday.

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