All 11 activists who were detained by police in Koh Kong province on Monday for preventing a convoy of government vehicles from reaching the Areng Valley, where villagers have been protesting a controversial hydropower dam project, were released early on Tuesday morning but vowed to continue fighting the project.
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a Spanish national and co-founder of the NGO Mother Nature, was arrested at a makeshift roadblock early Monday afternoon along with 10 Cambodian activists from his NGO and the Khmer Youth Empire.
Although police released Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson by Monday evening, the other 10 activists were not freed from police headquarters in Koh Kong City until early the next morning.
“Ten people were released…at about 1 a.m. after we educated them and they signed contracts that said they would stop disrupting authorities,” said Sam Khitveth, the provincial police chief.
“It is illegal to stop authorities from visiting villagers,” he added.
The activists and ethnic Chong villagers living the Areng Valley—whose homes will be flooded if China’s Sinohydro Resources goes ahead with construction of the 108-MW Stung Chhay Areng dam—had been manning the roadblock around the clock for months to keep surveyors and work crews out of the area.
Keo Nybora, deputy governor of Thma Baing district, said on Tuesday the group was ordered to dismantle their roadblock and leave.
“We ordered the community to remove the tents and any materials from the area because they don’t have the authority to set up a camp or block the road like this,” he said.
Srun Mengleang, one of the activists who was detained Monday, confirmed that he signed an agreement promising not to return to the roadblock, but said it did not bar him from setting up an obstruction somewhere else along the road.
“The letter forbids us from blocking that area,” he said. “We will continue to stand by another site. Now we will let authorities access the area, but we will not allow Sinohydro to enter.”
Mr. Mengleang said the detained activists retrieved some, but not all, of the phones and cameras confiscated by police.
Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson said he and the other activists assumed the cars they stopped Sunday carried Sinohydro employees or subcontractors.
Had they known the vehicles carried a deputy provincial governor and other government officials on their way to meet with villagers about the dam, he said, “I think everybody would have been more than happy to let them in.”
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)
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