Police Arrest Two More Protesters
Sihanoukville officials want to bulldoze the mercury-tainted waste dropped last month in the seaside community and put it directly into large containers instead of waiting for several hundred soldiers to fill an estimated 15,000 barrels.
Two more protesters, meanwhile, have been arrested—one has since escaped—and a Ministry of Justice team is investigating claims that two Licadho rights workers were arrested illegally. Justice officials who went to Sihanoukville over the weekend refused to comment Monday on their findings.
Mam Muth, Sihanoukville’s chief prosecutor overseeing the case, said Monday that municipal officials have asked Phnom Penh if the suspected toxic waste could be bulldozed rather than shoveled into oil cans first.
“We want to bulldoze the waste and put it into containers directly because it is much faster and in order to let people feel relaxed about the waste,” he said.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday evening that he didn’t know about the request, but said he thinks it would be a good idea to stick to the original plan of putting the waste into plastic-lined barrels first.
Current removal techniques have resulted in only about 3,000 to 4,000 barrels being filled so far. That means it has taken more than five days to complete about 25 percent of the job. “The process of removal has been too slow and soldiers are feeling exhausted,” Mam Muth said.
Meanwhile, two more protesters were arrested by police on Friday but one escaped early Sunday morning.
Police accuse them—along with 10 others formally charged —of robbery and property damage during a protest that turned violent nine days ago.
Both Mam Muth and investigating judge Keo Sokhan continued to indicate Monday that the two Licadho rights workers, who are essentially being accused of leading the protesters, will not be released on bail. But Keo Sokhan said he would rule Wednesday on such a request.
A coalition of 13 Cambodian NGOs called the Human Rights Action Committee has charged that the two Licadho workers were arrested a day later without being shown warrants, that two other protesters may have been tortured, and that some detainees didn’t have prompt access to lawyers.
The Ministry of Justice sent a team to investigate. A member said he was too busy Monday to talk about the case, and Minister Uk Vithun said he would not receive the report until today.
Mam Muth insisted Monday that the arrests and charges were done in accordance with the law.