Authorities in western Cambodia have detained 11 activists after they tried to stop further studies for a planned Chinese-built dam.
About 30 local villagers and environmental activists in the Areng Valley went to the area Monday to protect barricades they had erected earlier this year to prevent access to the proposed dam site.
Huon Chhundy, program director of Community Legal Education Center, said the protest was peaceful.
“What the people did was to protect natural resources from the Chinese who wanted to go into the area to conduct more research on building a hydro dam. They had no bad intention to cause social disturbance or to do any harm to the authority,” said Chhundy.
Environmental activist and Spanish citizen Alex Gonzalez was released after a few hours in detention. The other 10 activists, all Cambodian citizens, are still in custody. It is not known if they will be formally charged with any crimes.
Gonzalez told VOA that lawyers will be coming from Phnom Penh Tuesday seeking the release of the others.
“If they don’t release them and they do send them to jail, it will actually be a major, major story because they really haven’t done anything,” said Gonzales.
When contacted by VOA’s Khmer service, National police spokesman Keat Chantharith would only say that he has not yet seen a report on the incident. Other officials refused to comment or were not reachable.
Local residents who will lose their homes if the dam is built have complained about the level of compensation offered to them. They have also raised the issue of damage to the environment that will be caused by the dam.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.