PHNOM PENH, Aug 22 (VOA) – Koh Kong provincial police on Friday raided the headquarters of Mother Nature Cambodia, three activists of which the courts have detained for leading a campaign against sand dredging.
Activists said police entered the headquarters, in a rented house in the town of Khemarak Phoumin, without a warrant.
In Kongchet, Koh Kong coordinator for the rights group Licadho, said the deputy governor of the town, Pen Bunchhouy, and its police chief, Real Chandara, led police and military police to the house, where some 21 people stay.
Police took down their names and asked them for thumbprints, which they refused to give, he said. “They did this without an inspection warrant from the court of Koh Kong,” he said. “So the people staying in the house felt scared.”
Pen Bunchhouy and Real Chandara could not be reached for comment on the operation.
The raid comes as members of five different communities gathered to protest the activists’ arrests earlier this week.
Soth Ratha, 23, a member of Mother Nature, said that about 20 local authorities and police, accompanied by soldiers, came to inspect the headquarters, in Smach Meanchey district’s Dong Tung commune.
“They tried to question us regarding the renting of the house…and asked who rented the house and who signed the renting lease,” he said. “They forced us to write down the names of all the people, including the people coming from the communities, [and] they blocked us to not to go anywhere for nearly one hour.”
Kim Ry, 23, another member of the organization, called the inspection an intimidation attempt to prevent people from protesting over the arrest of Mother Nature’s activists.
Police also asked neighbors in the community around the headquarters to thumbprint documents disavowing the organization, which they refused to do, Kim Ry said.
Mother Nature has been leading a campaign against the sand dredging operations of companies Direct Access and International Rainbow. The group claims the dredging has exceeded its license and is doing environmental harm to areas in Botum Sakor district.
The group has also been active in opposing the construction of a hydropower project in the nearby Areng Valley of the Cardamom Mountains, one of the most biodiverse regions remaining in the country.