“Recognition of Rights NOT Repression of Rights”
A Collective Indignation Over Unjust Court Ruling Against Environmental Defenders from Mother Nature Cambodia
Cambodia is one of the most biologically diverse countries in Southeast Asia, but the government’s drive to enhance its so-called national economic development comes at the price of destroying its precious natural resources. Such destruction is enabled by government-backed development aggression, reinforced by giant multinational companies seemingly immune from their crimes against the environment.
Unsurprisingly, people express dissent over destructive activities that put their survival in peril; however, opposition to environmental destruction was met with repression. On September 3, 2020, three activists from the group Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC), namely Phuon Keoreaksmey, Long Kunthea and Thun Ratha, were arrested over a social media post.
They have expressed their plans to live-stream Long Kunthea’s single person march from Wat Phnom to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s private residence to protest against the reclamation of Bueng Ta-mouk Lake and raise the possible environmental issues that the project will cause. They were arrested even before they could conduct their activity.
Boeung Ta-mouk or Boeung Kobsrov is the largest natural lake in Phnom Penh; local group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) reported in April 2021 that 300 families or over 1,000 individuals rely on the lake as their primary source of livelihood through “fishing, aquaculture farming, and home-based businesses.” A reclamation project will potentially affect their way of life.
Additionally, a report by The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders revealed that the project in Bueng Ta-mouk lake “aims to build a military base, which will destroy the habitat of many bird species and damage biodiversity, and is also expected to cause significant flooding in Phnom Penh.”
On May 5, 2021, the 3 MNC youth activists were found guilty of “incitement to disturb social security” of a Phnom Penh court with 18-20 months in jail and an accumulated fine of over $3,000.00. Along with the 3 MNC activists, its founder Alejandro Gonzales Davidson and another MNC activist Chea Kunthin have been tried in absentia; the court has issued warrants of arrest against them.
Thus, the undersigned organizations and individuals urge the Cambodian government to review its court decision against the MNC activists; that the government uphold the Cambodian people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly without fear of reprisal as enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The undersigned organizations also call on the attention of concerned UN bodies to look into their case.
Furthermore, the undersigned express fervent support and solidarity to MNC activists and Cambodian people at the front and center of the struggle to defend and preserve its forests, land, and natural resources.
In conclusion, the undersigned organizations further enjoin the broadest number of people to continue the collective action to expose and oppose environmental criminals and other forms of corporate and state-perpetuated attacks against environmental defenders in Cambodia and elsewhere. The people united will never be defeated!
Sign-on to this statement here.
- Asia Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders (APNED)
- Not1More (N1M)
- Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Federation of Agricultural Workers) – Philippines
- CECOEDECON, India
- Centre for Sustainable Community Development (S-CODE) – Vietnam
- International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
- Roots For Equity – Pakistan
- Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN)
- Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) – Philippines
- Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP)
- WALHI Kalimantan Tengah – Indonesia
- PROGRESS Kalimantan Tengah – Indonesia
- Vikas Adhyayan Kendra – India
- Forest Defenders Project-NTUK – Cambodia
- KALIKASAN People’s Network for the Environment – Philippines
- Karen Rivers Watch – Myanmar
- Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) – Myanmar
- Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY)
- Cambodia Youth Network (CYN)
- Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC) – Thailand
- Just Peace Committee – Vancouver, BC
- Pusaka Bentala Rakyat Foundation – Indonesia
- Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) – Philippines
- Sandiwa Network of Advocates for National Minority Rights – Philippines
- Association For Promotion Sustainable Development
- National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal
- North-East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS)
- University of the Philippines Zoological Society (UPZS)
- MIGRANTE International
- IBON International
- GABRIELA Philippines
- Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (AIPNEE)
- Liyang Network
- Anakbayan Toronto
- PANALIPDAN Mindanao – Philippines
- Keo Chanra
- Barbara Waldern
- Loemchou SAY
- Um sorachana
- Eduardo Valcos
- Meng Kroypunlok
- Keo Dalin
- Felicia Widenhorn
- Monthary Meth
- Mange Ram Adhana
- Tirtha Prasad Saikia
- Luong Thi truong
- Chennaiah Poguri
- Jojo Guan
- Rendilyn Cuyop
- Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla
- Jill Banta
- Al Quinn Alquinto
- Bethany Iyoupe
- Christie Bernados
- Rey Palacio