Following the conviction of Mother Nature Cambodia’s environmental defenders for incitement, FORUM-ASIA Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said:
The convictions of Mother Nature’s environmental defenders Phuon Keoreaksmey, Long Kunthea, Thun Ratha, Chea Kunthin and Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson yesterday are clear cases of reprisals aimed at silencing environmental defenders who have continuously advocated against the destructive impact of business activities in Cambodia.
The systematic harassment and intimidation of these environmental defenders for their activism show the Cambodian government’s prioritisation of business activities over peoples’ livelihoods. It also demonstrates the silencing of any forms of dissent through the judiciary.
Phuon Keoreaksmey, Long Kunthea and Thun Ratha were found guilty and sentenced to between 18 and 20 months while Chea Kunthin and Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson were found guilty in absentia. Keoreaksmey, Kunthea, Ratha, and Kunthin were fined four million riel (about USD1,000).
FORUM-ASIA condemns the verdicts and calls on the Cambodian government to quash these convictions and unconditionally and immediately release Phuon Keoreaksmey, Long Kunthea and Thun Ratha who have been detained since September 2020. It must repeal its incitement clause, which has been used to indiscriminately target and silence its critics under overbroad interpretations of national security.
FORUM-ASIA urges the international community to condemn these verdicts and call on the Cambodian government to abide by its obligations to protect human rights defenders and fundamental freedoms.
Within a repressed civic space, these defenders have continued to advocate for the rights of their people and the protection of the environment, often facing backlash from both business actors and their own government. The international community must not stay silent against the continued persecution of rights defenders under Hun Sen’s authoritarian government.
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- Melissa Ananthraj, Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA, email@example.com