Charges dropped against Mother Nature monk duo
Charges against two co-founders of environmentalist group Mother Nature have been dropped, according to their defence lawyer, while deported co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson yesterday said he plans to force his own arrest if he is not permitted to return to stand trial.
Three Mother Nature activists, Try Sovikea, Sun Mala and Lem Samnang, were arrested in August 2015 over their anti-sand dredging activities in Koh Kong province and charged with threatening to cause destruction, defacement or damage and ordering others to do so.
Gonzalez-Davidson and co-founders Sok Chantra and Prom Dhammajat were subsequently implicated as accomplices in charges made public in February.
According to Mother Nature attorney Kong Pisey, charges against Buddhist monks Chantra and Dhammajat have been dropped, although charges against Gonzalez-Davidson remain, pending an appeal made a month ago.
“We could see that the judge closed the investigation improperly, so we asked for the release or dropping of the charge,” he said.
Calls to Koh Kong Provincial Court judges went unanswered yesterday and prosecutor Bu Bunheang declined to comment for this story.
Deported in February 2015, Gonzalez-Davidson has been denied visa applications to enter the country and has made appeals to the government to allow him to stand trial, most recently in a March 18 letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng. Despite this, a warrant for his arrest, dated January 18, has been issued, according to Gonzalez-Davidson, who was read the document by Pisey.
In an email yesterday, Gonzalez-Davidson welcomed the “logical” decision to drop the charges against Chantra and Dhammajat, but said he was “bewildered” by the warrant given his inability to obtain a visa.
“I have repeatedly expressed my desire to return . . . if the government keeps ignoring me, I will have no choice but to hop on a plane and return to Phnom Penh. This should in theory trigger the police to arrest me, thus guaranteeing my presence in the trial,” he wrote.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak yesterday said Gonzalez-Davidson cannot be granted a visa while he remains blacklisted by the ministry, warning the Spanish national not to return without permission.
“Alex is a person that Cambodia no longer needs, so he cannot step into Cambodia,” he said, adding that “the court can sentence him in absentia, so no need for him”.