PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Vietnamese company Direct Access has halted its sand-dredging operations in Koh Kong’s Andong Teuk commune due to threats from the NGO Mother Nature, its chief executive officer Khem Sameth told Khmer Times yesterday.
“Mother Nature has mobilized demonstrators from far away from the operation area and they have threatened violence against our workers. Our workers have to leave for their safety,” Mr. Sameth said.
The intimidation has included threats from the activists that they will set sand-dredging boats on fire, he said.
The NGO has accused the company of violating the conditions of the license issued to it from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, saying its work has caused the destruction of fisheries and damaged the livelihoods of local residents.
Mr. Sameth dismissed the allegations as nonsense.
“I don’t know what these allegations are based on. We are just carrying out our operations inside the designated areas, according to the license,” he said.
Dith Tina, secretary of state at the ministry, said his ministry has found no evidence that the company has violated its license.
Mother Nature activist Try Sovike denied the NGO was threatening violence. “We have not been violent or set a boat on fire, but we do use strong words to force the boats away.”
“So far there are roughly 60 boats, some of which have left and others remain in the waters, but stopped their operations,” Mr. Sovike said.
Mr. Tina confirmed that no boat had been set aflame but said activists at the NGO had threatened the company’s Vietnamese staff.
Three of its activists were summoned on Friday by police to answer questions about the tactics they are using to protest sand-dredging. The three, however, have said they are refusing to answer the summons because they have done nothing wrong except protect the environment.