Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mother Nature activists’ appeal to be heard

Mother Nature activists’ appeal to be heard

Family and supporters of the three Mother Nature activists on trial for threatening to destroy property of a dredging company sit outside Koh Kong Provincial Court last year.
Family and supporters of the three Mother Nature activists on trial for threatening to destroy property of a dredging company sit outside Koh Kong Provincial Court last year. Athena Zelandonii

Mother Nature activists’ appeal to be heard

A group of 48 civil society organisations has called on the Court of Appeal to reverse the July conviction of three Mother Nature activists as their trial begins today, though neither the environmentalists nor their lawyers are expected to appear.

The three men – Sun Mala, Try Sovikea and Sim Somnang – were found guilty of “making threats to destroy” in the high-profile case after being charged with boarding boats belonging to sand-dredging firm Direct Access during a pair of 2015 protests and threatening to destroy the firm’s equipment.

While the three were sentenced to 18 months – eight of which were suspended – and ordered to pay $25,000 compensation to Direct Access, they appealed. Last week, the three fled the country for fear of seeing their suspended prison sentences overturned by the higher court.

Mala yesterday said the trio left the country on January 23 fearing repercussions tied to recent revelations by Mother Nature of discrepancies in sand-export data between Cambodia and Singapore.

“We suspect the court is under the pressure and will be used as a tool to take revenge against environmental activists,” he said, via online message.

The UN data he referenced showed 72.2 million tonnes of sand exports from the Kingdom to Singapore from 2007 to 2015, with local data recording just 2.8 million tonnes headed to the island nation. The Mines Ministry last week revised their export figures to 16 million, still leaving a 56 million tonne discrepancy.

Mala yesterday refused to divulge the trio’s location, adding that they were afraid of a counter appeal being filed by Koh Kong prosecutors, the spectre of which he said had been raised by a high-ranking official who had warned them against appealing.

“He did not want me to file [the] appeal complaint and told me he would [ask the] company not [to demand the $25,000 in court-ordered compensation],” he said, declining to provide the official’s identity.

“He also stressed that the prosecutor will file an appeal complaint if we file a complaint and that the result would be worse [for us],” Mala said.

Sam Chamroeun, a lawyer for the trio, said he had filed a motion yesterday to postpone the hearing because defence witnesses had not yet received summonses from the court.

“The judge will consider [today] whether the hearing should be held or not,” he said, adding that the defence team also planned to skip the hearing.

However, Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith said the hearing was still on the court’s schedule and that he was unaware of a request to postpone. He did say that the hearing will not proceed if there was no legal representation for the defendants.

Among the civil society groups signing on to the statement, which pointed to numerous holes in the prosecution’s case last July, were the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Adhoc and the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Cambodia.

“Further, powerful exculpatory evidence was not given due consideration by the court despite its ready availability, suggesting that this was a politically-motivated prosecution,” the statement reads.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports