A Koh Kong provincial judge on Wednesday questioned three activists who were arrested late Monday—not in the courtroom, but in the prison where they are being held.
The three young activists from Mother Nature Cambodia are being charged with “intimidation,” for leading a local campaign against dredging operations by Direct Access and International Rainbow Company in Chiphat and Anduong Toek areas of Botum Sakor district.
In Kongchet, coordinator in Koh Kong for the rights group Licadho, told VOA Khmer that Chhun Davy, the investigating judge for Koh Kong court, traveled to the prison to question the detainees, to avoid dozens of protesters outside the court.
“We didn’t know what method the judge was using, but we saw that many police and military police were deployed since Wednesday morning around the provincial court of Koh Kong, to strictly maintain security,” he said.
Chhun Davy could not be reached for comment.
The Koh Kong provincial government issued a statement Tuesday, claiming 10 youths from Mother Nature have taken part in activities to encourage people to protest against sand dredging in their communities. Such activity will “likely” cause violence, the statement said, so the dredging companies and the authorities filed suit against them.
Meng Heng, another member of Mother Nature, said his colleagues were not instigating violence, but are trying to stop environmentally harmful dredging.
In Kongchet said the group has always used principles of non-violence in its campaigns, and he accused the provincial authorities of protecting the interests of the dredging companies. “The companies put the blame on these three people,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, police have worked to stop supporters from five communities in Botum Sakor from protesting on behalf of the jailed activists, a claim that police officials denied.