Police Summon Three Koh Kong Anti-Sand-Dredging Activists

Three activists from environmental NGO Mother Nature were summoned to appear at the Botum Sakor district police station in Koh Kong province on Friday to answer for their involvement in a campaign to chase off a sand-dredging company accused of destroying the environment, officials said.

According to copies of the summonses, district police chief Sok Phorn ordered Sun Mala, Yoeun Tinit and Tri Sovichea, all members of Mother Nature, to appear for questioning on Friday at 11 a.m. 

District governor Orn Virak said the three were being sought for questioning because they took part in demonstrations against Direct Access.

“They were summoned for questioning following a complaint from the company,” he said.

Mr. Mala, 22, a co-founder of Mother Nature, said Friday that he and his two colleagues did not go to the district police station.

“We refused to follow the summons letter because we did nothing wrong,” he said. “I think the reason they summoned us for questioning is because the company is not happy with us for disturbing their illegal sand dredging.”

The Mines and Energy Ministry granted Direct Access a license to dredge parts of the Andong Teuk estuary in the district.

However, Mother Nature and local fishermen say the company is dredging deeper than the license allows and in areas not permitted. They also accuse Direct Access of polluting the estuary, causing riverbank collapses and driving off fish stocks.

As part of their monthslong campaign, the activists and fishermen have boarded barges operated by Direct Access and towed them away with fishing boats. In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said he believes district authorities are trying to intimidate the group into halting their campaign.

“They are protecting natural resources,” he said of the activists.

“Authorities should be encouraging them rather than making accusations.”

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