Two environmental activists with the NGO Mother Nature were yesterday detained by Koh Kong provincial police for questioning after taking photos of sand dredging in Kiri Sakor district.
Lim Kimsour, another activist with Mother Nature, identified her detained colleagues as Dearm Kundy, 22, and Hun Vanak , 36.
Ms Kimsour said her colleagues were taking pictures in Prek Kjach commune, within the Koh Kong special economic zone, of a sand dredging boat supposedly being operated by the LPY Group, owned by Senator Ly Yong Phat.
The Mines Ministry permanently banned sand dredging in the province in July amid controversy over a 56 million tonne discrepancy in sand sold to Singapore.
Ms Kimsour said police detained the two activists yesterday morning after they were called by LYP Group company representatives.
“They were on their boat,” she said. “They were not doing anything wrong.”
“They were just doing their work to report on irregular sand dredging,” she added. “But they were accused of taking photos without permission.”
Koh Kong provincial police chief Sam Keath Veat confirmed the activists were detained for questioning.
“They were taking photos of the company without the company’s permission,” he said, noting that the pair had not been arrested, but brought in for questioning.
The two activists remained in police custody as of yesterday evening.
The detention of the activists came one day after Mother Nature posted a video of their activists burying themselves in sand to draw attention to discrepancies in sand dredging export data to Taiwan.
In the video, the NGO claimed that it had come across new evidence of systemic smuggling of rare silica sand to Taiwan.
The NGO said data from Taiwan’s Customs Administration showed that Taiwan imported more than 1.5 million tonnes of silica sand from Cambodia, valued at more than $32 million from 2012 to 2016.
“ However, data released by Cambodia’s Department of Customs and Excise show that our country only exported 28,000 tonnes of sand to Taiwan, equal to about $270,000 in the same period,” the NGO said in the video.