Documenting pollution is a public service, not terrorism. We urge authorities to be responsive to its citizens, not to silence them
3 members of an environmental activist group called “Mother Nature” have been arrested after they documented waste runoff that fed into Phnom Penh’s Tonle Sap river. They have been charged with plotting against the government and insulting the king.
They face 5-10 years in prison for their offence.
The suspected violators are 26 year old Sun Ratha, 22 year old Chandaravuth, and 32 year old Yim Leanghy. They were arrested earlier this month after they documented the waste runoff near the royal palace.
However, Cambodia’s law against insulting the king is a fledgling law so it is unclear how the 3 insulted the king.
“The evidence collected by the police was an insult to the king”, says the protection to Reuters.
They did not extrapolate how the law had been broken.
Meanwhile, critics say the 2018 law is a tool used to gag dissent.
The founder of Mother Nature, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, was deported back in 2015. He had criticised plans for a controversial dam.
US ambassador Patrick Murphy says that he’s “Very troubled to hear of the arrests of more environmental youth activists. Documenting pollution is a public service, not terrorism. We urge authorities to be responsive to its citizens, not to silence them”.
Further, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, warns that “The Cambodian government has stepped up its campaign to silence activists peacefully advocating to protect the environment”.
“Cambodia’s highly politicised courts mean that the environmental activists charged have no chance of getting a fair trial” Roberson went on to say.
However, Phay Siphan, a government spokesperson brushed aside the criticism, alleging the Cambodian government was merely enforcing the law. He did add a piece of advice:
“Find a good lawyer to challenge this issue in the courtroom instead of fabricating the news”.
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