Award-Winning Environmentalist, Four Others Arrested in Kratie

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Ouch Leng, center, leaves the Kratie Provincial Court in this photograph posted to Ma Chettra’s Facebook page on March 16, 2020.

UPDATED — Prominent environmentalist Ouch Leng and four other forestry activists were arrested by Kratie provincial environment officers Friday afternoon, local officials said.

Leng and fellow activists Heng Sros, Men Math, Heng Run and Choup Cheang were taken to the Kratie city district police station, said Soeng Senkaruna, spokesperson for human rights group Adhoc.

The director of the Kratie provincial environment department, Duong Savuth, confirmed the arrests Friday evening but declined to give details. 

“Authorities are questioning them. I can only tell you this. I don’t have more to say,” Savuth said.

Provincial police chief Lon Sophat said he had also been notified about the arrests, but they were carried out by environment department officers, not police, and he did not have further information.

Leng, president of the Cambodia Human Rights Task Force, was also detained by a timber company’s guards in March last year before being questioned by the provincial court and released.

Leng, a 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize recipient, said at the time that he and three others had been patrolling protected forest in the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary when they were held by guards from Think Biotech.

The Environment Ministry had shut down community patrols of Prey Lang just a month prior, despite satellite analyses showing ongoing illegal deforestation in the 430,000-hectare sanctuary.

Additional reporting by Matt Surrusco

Updated at 9:23 p.m. with comments from Soeng Senkaruna.

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