Mother Nature NGO Activists Questioned Again Before Trial

Three activists from the environmental NGO Mother Nature who have been jailed since August were again questioned at the Koh Kong Provincial Court Wednesday regarding charges that they damaged property while protesting against a company dredging for sand in Botum Sakor district.

Investigating Judge Chhum Davy said that she questioned Try Sovichea, 25; Sun Mala, 22; and Sim Samnang, 29, for the third time at the behest of court prosecutor Bou Bunhang.

“The answers that we collected for the previous questions are not enough for the trial,” she explained.

Ms. Davy added that such extra questioning is not unusual, and will help the prosecutor set a date for the trial.

Sam Kunthea, a lawyer for the jailed activists, was present during questioning but would not give details of what was discussed.

“I am not able to comment on what the judge questioned the three activists about because the court rules insist lawyers and judges must keep such information secret.”

The three were arrested on August 17 after Direct Access, a company that had a license to dredge for sand in Andoung Toek estuary, accused them of intentionally damaging their property in ongoing demonstrations against the company during which the three had boarded a barge.

Separately, in Phnom Penh Wednesday, Mother Nature activists held a press conference at the Tonle Bassac restaurant, where family members of the three activists, as well as family of Mother Nature associate Ven Vorn, who was arrested last month and charged with illegal logging and tampering with evidence, called on the government to release the men.

Sam Samnang, Mr. Sovichea’s mother, spoke about the suffering her family has endured since the arrest, saying her husband’s mental illness has worsened and that she does not have the means to support her family.

“I wish to appeal to the government to release my son because he did nothing wrong,” she said. “He just worked to protect the natural environment, why did the government arrest my son?”

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