Villagers Summoned Over Peaceful Protest Against Sand Dredging

The Kandal Provincial Court has summoned three villagers for questioning over allegations of inciting violence for their roles in a protest last week against sand dredging operations they blame for the loss of several farms and homes.

Court prosecutor Leav Sreng confirmed summoning the trio but declined further comment.

“Once I meet the villagers, I will know more,” he said.

Copies of the summonses, all signed by Mr. Sreng on Thursday and provided by the environmental NGO Mother Nature, accuse the three villagers of inciting violence and interfering with the company’s work, without naming the company. They do identify the person filing the complaint as Vann Kimpha, but do not explain who Ms. Kimpha is, and the prosecutor declined to say.

Mut Mum, one of the accused, denied inciting violence during what remained a peaceful protest on August 7 in Sa’ang district but said she would appear at court on August 24 as scheduled.

“I should be the one suing the company,” said Ms. Mum, who blamed the dredging for a piece of her farm that has fallen into the Tonle Bassac river.

“The dredging has damaged my crops, vegetables and potatoes; they’re all gone,” she said. “And I protested peacefully, so why are they accusing me of inciting violence? It’s like a theater, to threaten the other villagers.”

A Mother Nature activist was detained on the day of the protest for allegedly inciting the villagers by filming the event with a drone and smartphone, though he was released later that evening.

Villagers have been protesting against the dredging for the past few months, blaming it for the collapse of at least nine riverside homes. They say at least one of the companies had promised to compensate them for any losses but have failed to follow through.

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