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Cambodian environmental activists reportedly arrested

Mr. Lang Ouch & The woman of Prey Lang.

  • Kratie provincial environment officers have reportedly arrested prominent environmental activist Ouch Leng along with Heng Sros, Men Math, Heng Run and Choup Cheang.
  • In 2016 Ouch was chosen as a recipient of the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize for his work exposing corruption-enabled illegal logging in Cambodia’s forests.
  • This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.

Update: The five activists were released on February 8 after they “signed an agreement not to enter restricted areas without permission,” as Reuters reported.

On Friday afternoon Kratie provincial environment officers reportedly arrested prominent environmental activist Ouch Leng along with Heng Sros, Men Math, Heng Run and Choup Cheang. They are being detained at the Kratie city police station, according to Soeng Senkaruna, spokesperson for human rights group Adhoc, as reported by VOD.

It remains unclear on what grounds they were arrested.

“Authorities are questioning them. I can only tell you this. I don’t have more to say,” Duong Savuth, director of the Kratie provincial environment department, told VOD.

In 2016 Ouch was a recipient of the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize for his work exposing corruption-enabled illegal logging in Cambodia’s forests. Ouch infiltrated logging networks, posing as a timber dealer and driver, tourist and cook, and gathered evidence of collusion between timber companies and government officials.

Mr. Leng Ouch. Courtesy of the Goldman Prize

Ouch was previously arrested in early 2020 after a South Korean company he suspected of illegal logging filed a complaint with the police alleging Ouch and three colleagues had trespassed on company property. Ouch said that he also submitted a complaint to police alleging that one of his colleagues, Man Mat, had been beaten by two of the company’s security guards, but that the police failed to follow up on it.

“This is the systematic and organized forest crime in a commercial and industrial timber business, [and] corruption and collusion of all level of authorities, including the court, played role as a tool of company,” Ouch said in a 2020 email to Mongabay. “They filed criminal action against me for the sake of company but for [the] violence case, they tried to ignore it.”

 

Banner image  Mr. Leng Ouch with a local woman in Prey Lang. Courtesy of the Goldman Prize.

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