Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry says forest activists sent to court for trespassing

Ministry says forest activists sent to court for trespassing

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Forest ​activists were arrested by environmental officials in Kratie province on February 5. ADHOC

Ministry says forest activists sent to court for trespassing

The Ministry of Environment has clarified that the five activists who were arrested by environmental officials in Kratie province on February 5 had illegally entered the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary located there.

They were sent to Kratie Provincial Court for further legal action on February 7.

The five forest activists included 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Ouch Leng along with Heng Sros, Man Math, Heng Ron and Tang Cheang.

In a press release, the ministry said: “[The] suspects confessed that they had illegally entered the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary in Kratie province and operated there without permission.

“They had signed a letter promising to stop their activities and stop entering natural protected areas without permission for any reason. Such activities are against the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management,” the statement said.

The ministry said the five activists had performed their activities under the name of an NGO, which was not registered with the Ministry of Interior, without the authorisation of the environment ministry.

It said the activists went into the forest in order to take photos to produce reports which defame Cambodia in order to get financial support from donors abroad.

Soeng Sen Karuna, the senior investigator for local rights group Adhoc who is following the case in Kratie province, said the five activists conducted a campaign to protect the forests and had put signs on big trees in order to discourage logging.

He said they used the slogan “please protect our ancestral forests!” on signs hung on trees in Prey Lang in Sambor district’ Kampong Cham commune.

Sen Karuna said at first 10 environmental activists were arrested but five were then released later after they signed a letter promising to stop their activity.

“They arrested the five activists and held them for 48 hours at the Kratie town police station before sending them to court,” he said, adding that civil society organisations were following the case closely and that Licadho had sent lawyers to defend them.
Sen Karuna said it was regrettable that the authorities detained forest activists for simply trying to protect the forest.

He said that in the laws regarding the forests, only those who destroy the forests or natural resources like wildlife should face legal action.

“We still ask why this was considered so serious an offense that they [authorities] detained them for 48 hours without charges or any real crimes. If they are accused of trespassing in a forbidden zone, they should only make them leave the area. They were there doing good deeds, not as criminals,” Sen Karuna said.

He urged the relevant authorities to instead focus on crackdowns on criminals who destroy forests, natural resources and wildlife.

“The government’s leadership should intervene in this case and release them because arresting them brings no benefit. This will get a negative reaction from just about everyone and especially from the international community,” Sen Karuna said.

Khem Sokhy, an environmental activist who used to work with the five detainees, said they had raised awareness among the public to help prevent deforestation by putting signs against deforestation up on the trees.

“They put signs on the trees calling on people not to cut the trees down and when they went into the area the environment officials said is a forbidden zone and arrested them.

“We went to the forest and we did not do anything wrong. We just put up signs calling on others not to cut down the forest which is our ancestral heritage,” he said.

The most prominent of the five activists, Leng, is the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force (CHRTF) director and the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner.

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a