Court Denies Bail to Activists as More Protesters Head to Koh Kong

The Koh Kong Provincial Court on Monday denied bail to three jailed activists from environmental NGO Mother Nature who were charged last month with threatening to destroy barges operated by a sand dredging company, their lawyer said.

The activists—Sim Samnang, 29; Tri Sovichea, 26; and Sun Mala, 24—requested bail on Wednesday and the court rejected their request in a letter Monday, according to Sam Sokunthea, a lawyer who works for rights group Licadho.

“I just received the court’s letter today at about 5:30 p.m., and they refused to release the three activists on bail,” she said.

Also Monday, about 30 activists who had traveled from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak and Borei Keila neighborhoods joined a similar number of protesters already in Koh Kong’s Khemara Phoumint City, according to Hour In, a local monitor for Licadho.

The group of about 60 gathered outside the provincial court Monday morning to call for the release of the the men, he said, adding that the protesters twice attempted to march to the provincial governor’s office, but were blocked by about 30 police and military police.

Military police briefly detained a pair of protesters during a similar demonstration on Thursday—the day after the city issued a letter forbidding such marches—with the deputy city governor suggesting that arrests could meet violators.

On Monday, provincial governor Bun Leut said authorities did not allow the protesters to march to his office because they did not have a permission letter, but that he did not have cause to order arrests.

“I [also] have no power to give orders to the court to release the three people because they have not yet been sentenced,” he said.

Song Sreyleap, a prominent member of the Boeng Kak community, who led 32 people from Phnom Penh for Monday’s protest, said she did not know when they would return home.

“Our arrival encouraged these people to continue protesting to demand the release of the three jailed activists,” she said.

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