Cambodia: two environmental defenders threatened while investigating illegal logging, one dies while escapingEvent
- Initial Date
- Jul 16, 2020
- Event Description
One forestry activist was beaten and another died after he was injured in a motorbike crash while both had been investigating illegal timber transportation in two separate incidents in which the activists had attempted to confront those they accused of forestry crimes.
Environmental activist Heng Sros said on Friday that Sen Sothea, a forestry activist in Stung Treng province, died after the two men crashed their motorbike Thursday evening while investigating a company they believed to be behind forest clearing in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary.
Sros said that he and Sen Sothea, 46, had traveled to Boeng Char commune in Kratie province�s Sambor district to investigate timber transporting near the Think Biotech concession, which also stretches into Stung Treng province on the eastern border of the Prey Lang sanctuary.
Sros said he and Sen Sothea were threatened by guards from Think Biotech and they decided to retreat.
�We started taking photos for about half an hour and suddenly, the head of the company�s security guards came and threatened us to leave from that area and go to another place,� Sros said. �They did not allow us to get close to the company and they did not allow us to be in the path that timber was being transported.�
�They threatened that if we did not leave, they would bring more security guards and round us up and mistreat us by all means. So, we decided to drive the motorbike to escape from them and find a safe place,� Sros said.
As they were leaving the area on the same motorbike, Sros said the pair hit a hole in the road causing them to crash. Sen Sothea, who was driving, was seriously injured. He died later on Thursday while he was transported to the Sambor District Referral Hospital. Sros said the two had drank a small amount of locally made wine before they were confronted by guards. Sros said Sen Sothea was survived by his wife and two children in Stung Treng province.
Lu Chu Chang, director of Think Biotech and its sister company Angkor Plywood, said he learned of the incident on Friday morning. He said he had attempted to contact commune authorities to find out what happened, but had not received information from them.
Forest monitoring group Prey Lang Community Network said in a statement that Sen Sothea had been a participant and core group member since 2005 and had regularly investigated and reported illegal forest encroachment and other forestry crimes.
Think Biotech and Angkor Plywood have been frequently accused of forest clearing and road building within the 430,000-hectare Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary, which spans Kratie, Stung Treng, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom provinces, lost at least 7,500 hectares of forest cover last year, according to satellite data.
Soeng Senkaruna, spokesperson for human rights group Adhoc, urged authorities to investigate the case to determine if there was a threat made by the company�s guards against the two activists.
�Even though he died related to a motorbike accident, it is related to the [alleged] threat. This threat made him leave the place where they were investigating forestry crimes in that area,� Senkaruna said. �Whether there is a threat or not, authorities should clarify it and if there is a threat against them, [authorities] should take action against those who threatened them.�
Bun Chhoeun, Sambor district�s police chief, told VOD that he assigned local officers to investigate the allegation.
�Just wait for the commune police administration to investigate and if we find it is true, I will get approval from my superiors and might take action,� Chhoeun said.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Intimidation and Threats
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of movement
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Environmental rights defender
- Agricultural business
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 16 July 2020, Heng Sros and Sen Sothea, environmental defenders, were threatened by personnel of Korean-owned timber company Think Biotech, while investigating illegal logging (one dies while escaping) in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia.