NGO Urges Closer Look at the Detention of Mother Nature Activists

Taing Vida / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Mother Nature founders Alejandro Gonzalez Davidson (R), and San Mala (L), who were arrested in February. Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson was deported. Mr. Mala remains in jail. Rod Harbinson

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) is demanding an investigation into the detention of seven Mother Nature activists by security guards last December in Koh Kong province.
CCHR claims their detention by security guards employed by the sand-dredging company Oudom Seima was illegal and prevented the environmental activists from exercising their fundamental rights.
CCHR released a case study fact sheet yesterday entitled “Mother Nature Activists Targeted Again.” It recounts the detention of the seven activists, including a young girl, for approximately two hours by the Oudom Seima private security guards, and the claims that the activists had taken illegal photos and video of the sand-dredging company’s mining operations. The activists were released after being forced to delete the media.
Chhay Chhunly, CCHR’s Fundamental Freedoms Project coordinator, said that the firm’s security guards clearly used their power and influence illegally in detaining and questioning the people, but local authorities ignored the event and “did not dare step in.” 
Khmer Times could not reach Eath Bunthol, spokesman for Odom Sima Company yesterday. But according to CCHR, he is quoted as saying that his company received license from the government to dredge and export sand, and activists and villagers entered the company office without permission from the Ministry of Mines and Energy. So, he concluded, the security guards’ attempt to block them was reasonable.
CCHR reports that it has been unable to find an official statement from the Ministry of Mines and Energy to confirm that Oudom Siema has a valid license. However, Ministry of Commerce documentation obtained by CCHR reveals that Hun Mana and Hun Maly, both daughters of Premier Hun Sen, were shareholders of the company until mid-2011, when their shares were given to a Cambodian woman named Sarin Dalin.
CCHR also urged the immediate publication of all licenses issued to companies engaged in coastal sand mining in Koh Kong province, along with the accompanying environmental and social impact assessments. These documents should be transparent, consultative and open to the public, CCHR says.
Dith Tina, a spokesman and secretary of state at the Mines and Energy Ministry, said he has not seen the request, adding that the ministry has no authority to take action instead of the local authorities. “The request should be sent directly to the Ministry and clearly state what is needed,” he said.

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