Three activists from Mother Nature Cambodia have been detained by the provincial court of Koh Kong, after launching a campaign to stop sand dredging along a river there.
The young activists, Sun Mala, 23; Try Sovikea, 24; and Sin Samnang, 26; had been working with people in local communities to stop dredging in Botum Sakor district by Direct Access and the International Rainbow Company. They were detained by the courts Monday night.
“This measure seems to put pressure on or threaten activists, who have protected natural resources through a high-profile campaign in Koh Kong,” said In Kongchet, coordinator in Koh Kong for the rights group Licadho.
Meng Heng, another member of Mother Nature Cambodia, said the three activists had done nothing illegal. Sand dredging, meanwhile, damages fisheries and fishing communities, and the companies have not followed their licenses, he said.
The companies have in place more than 70 sand dredging barges and ferries, which can damage mangrove swamps and their biodiversity, for export of sand to Singapore, he said.
The three activists have requested legal aid from Licadho, which has filed a letter on their behalf. They are being charged with acts of “intimidation” and face up to two years in prison, as well as fines. Court officials could not be reached for comment.