Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mother Nature hearing concludes in Koh Kong

Mother Nature hearing concludes in Koh Kong

Witnesses and family members of accused Mother Nature activists leave the Koh Kong Provincial Court on Monday.
Witnesses and family members of accused Mother Nature activists leave the Koh Kong Provincial Court on Monday. Athena Zelandonii

Mother Nature hearing concludes in Koh Kong

The trial of three activists from environmental group Mother Nature, charged with threatening to damage sand-dredging equipment, wrapped yesterday at Koh Kong Provincial Court, with the judge setting July 1 for a verdict.

San Mala, 24, Try Sovikea, 26, and Sim Somnang, 29, have been in pretrial detention since August in the high-profile case, which critics say is being pursued to stifle protests against the province’s lucrative sand-mining industry.

The trio – charged with “making a threat followed by an order” – was arrested following a campaign in July last year, which saw activists board dredging vessels in a bid to push them from the area’s mangrove estuaries.

In court on Monday, the plaintiffs, including a district deputy governor and an employee from sand-mining company Direct Access, whose ships were boarded, accused the protesters of threatening to burn the equipment.

According to a court monitor at the hearing, the second and final day of hearings yesterday began with further cross examination of the accused, who deny the charge, which carries a maximum two-year jail term.

They were grilled about their NGO’s structure and about the role of Mother Nature co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, who is charged as an accomplice but will be tried in absentia after being deported by the government, which refused to renew the activist’s visa.

The court then heard from nine witnesses for the defence, including Mother Nature staffer Phal Chamroeun, a photographer and seven members of villages that joined the protest.

Some of the witnesses told the court that it was the dredgers who were violent towards the activists, according to the monitor, who declined to be named.

Contacted after the hearing, Chamroeun, the witness, rejected the prosecution’s case. “Our activists did not do what the company accused,” he said.

“In court, they responded that they do anything to defend nature but had no intention [of damaging the equipment].”

Both the prosecution and defence yesterday also presented video evidence of the protests, which included nothing recognisable as violence or threats, the monitor said, adding that the defence’s closing arguments focused on the environmental and social harm caused by dredging.

Speaking via phone, Try Kimly, the sister of Sovikea, one of the three accused, said she was hoping for the best.

“I hope my brother and the other two are released and get good news on July 1, because they did not do anything wrong,” she said.

“I believe my brother and my family will come back home; I’m waiting for the day to come and hurry up so I know the result.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget