Two activists from the conservation group Mother Nature, Hun Vanak and Dem Kundy, have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court after their one-year prison sentences for “incitement to commit a felony” were upheld last month.
The Appeal Court on August 26 upheld their one-year jail terms, with seven months suspended, as handed down by the Koh Kong Provincial Court in January last year. They were also each fined one million riel ($250).
Sam Chamroeun, the lawyer for the two men, told The Post on Tuesday that having discussed the matter with his clients, he had filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on Friday due to the evidence and their demands.
His clients considered the Appeal Court’s ruling unfair, he said.
He said Vanak and Kundy were innocent of the charges brought against them by the provincial court.
“Our case remains the same because my clients are innocent. We will push the Supreme Court for legal procedures to be instituted quickly,” Chamroeun stressed.
Vanak told The Post on Tuesday that despite not holding much hope, he was continuing to seek justice at the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court were to rule fairly, the charges against them would be dropped, he said.
“We demand that the Supreme Court find justice for us. We do not accept the ruling of the provincial court. I ask the Supreme Court to speed up procedures and resolve this matter soon,” Vanak said.
The men were arrested in September 2017 for photographing boats they suspected were carrying silica sand off the coast of a special economic zone in Kiri Sakor district’s Prek Khsach commune belonging to ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat, who holds the honorific “oknha”.
The original complaint against them was filed by the chief of staff of Yong Phat’s LYP Group, Chan Nakry.
They were placed in custody on September 11, 2017, after being charged with “incitement to commit a felony” and making unauthorised recordings of a person “in a private place”.
The case against Mother Nature co-founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who had been charged with being an accomplice in “threatening to cause destruction, defacement or damage” and inciting others to do the same, was dropped on August 22.
Vanak said being found guilty of the “unreasonable and factually incorrect” charges had affected his daily life, especially his activism work.
“Our ability to protect natural resources has been reduced. We cannot carry out activities as before because we are under court supervision. I have had to find other work to help support my family,” Vanak said.
Supreme Court spokesman Nov Mony Choat said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court was yet to receive the case.
“We have to follow procedure. Though an appeal has been filed with us, the Appeal Court has to prepare the case and send it to us. The Supreme Court will render justice based on the law,” Mony Choat said.
Nakry, the LYP Group representative in Koh Kong province, said that had Vanak and Kundy apologised to Yong Phat, the case would not have gotten this far.
“The company has a legitimate licence recognised by the government. These individuals took photos and posted video on Facebook Live without permission.
“If they had admitted to doing wrong against the company and apologised, maybe Yong Phat would have understood. He is not a bad person. But they do not seem to have accepted their mistakes at all,” Nakry said.