Two environmental activists with the NGO Mother Nature were yesterday charged by the Koh Kong Provincial Court with incitement to commit a felony and violation of privacy following their detention by police after photographing alleged sand dredging by the LYP Group, owned by Senator Ly Yong Phat.
The two activists, Dearm Kundy, 22, and Hun Vanak , 36, were detained by provincial police on Tuesday after photographing irregular activity of a boat they say belongs to the LYP Group.
Un Sovan Theany, a spokesman for the provincial court, confirmed late last night that the two had been charged and provisionally detained.
The NGO claims it has new evidence of systemic smuggling of rare silica sand to Taiwan.
It said on Monday that data from Taiwan’s Customs Administration showed 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 showed that 28,000 tonnes of sand was exported to Taiwan, equal to about $270,000, in the same period, the NGO said.
Lim Kimsour, another activist with Mother Nature, said police arrested the pair after company security guards notified them of their activities, which were in no way illegal.
“Now Mother Nature is looking for a lawyer to help them,” she said. “They were accused of violation of privacy. It is not acceptable; they were on the open sea. We have no doubt that the ship they photographed plans to export silica sand abroad illegally.”
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.
Alejandro Gonzalez Davidson, the president of Mother Nature who was deported from Cambodia in 2015, said prior to the charges being laid that if the arrests led to charges and pre-trial detention, it would amount to state-sponsored kidnapping.
“This is, without a shadow of a doubt, an illegal confinement of two completely innocent citizens who were simply filming in the open sea,” he said via Facebook messenger.
“If they are formally charged and sent to jail for pre-trial detention, this will amount to kidnapping ordered by the state, a gross human rights violation that will backfire on the mafia bosses that are behind this.”
According to Cambodia’s penal code, filming a person who is in a private place amounts to a violation of privacy if consent is not given.
The charge is punishable by one month to one year in prison.
Deputy prosecutor IvTrav, who is in charge of the case, could not be reached for comment.