Three Cambodian environmental activists have been barred from leaving the nation to just accept an award in Sweden, prompting criticism of the federal government.Long Kunthea, Phun Keo Reaksmey and Thun Ratha are with the group Mother Nature Cambodia, which final month was named a winner of the Right Livelihood award for its “relentless” activism in opposition to environmental destruction within the nation.The three are presently below court docket supervision following early launch from jail in a case associated to their activism, which suggests they’ll’t journey overseas.Mother Nature Cambodia’s founder says the federal government has put itself in a “lose-lose scenario” by barring them, because the incident has each garnered worldwide scrutiny and revealed the shrinking house for civil society in Cambodia.
PHNOM PENH — A court docket in Cambodia has denied the requests of three activists from environmental group Mother Nature Cambodia to journey to Sweden to just accept a global award.
In a letter printed Oct. 2 by Phnom Penh Municipal Court and posted publicly to Mother Nature Cambodia’s Facebook web page, decrees the journey of the three activists to obtain the award “pointless,” within the phrases of prosecutor Chroeng Khmao.
The Cambodian activist group was on Sept. 28 acknowledged as a laureate of the Right Livelihood award, usually termed the “Alternative Nobel,” for its “relentless” environmental activism within the shrinking civil house of Cambodia. Three of the Mother Nature Cambodia activists invited to just accept the award — Long Kunthea, Phun Keo Reaksmey and Thun Ratha — had been barred from worldwide journey whereas on parole for fees associated to their environmental activism. They had petitioned for an exception, which the court docket turned down in its letter.
Mother Nature Cambodia subsequently posted photographs of Khmao dressed within the white uniform of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, questioning the court docket’s independence and suggesting that the choice to ban its members from going to Stockholm was political.
Prosecutor Chroeng Khmao in full Cambodian People’s Party uniform, and the letter issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court denying the activists’ request for journey. Images courtesy of Mother Nature Cambodia.
Khmao couldn’t be reached for remark, whereas Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Y Rin hung up the cellphone upon studying a journalist was calling him, after which didn’t reply to questions despatched by Mongabay through messages.
“While we’re saddened by this information, we’re pleased with the work undertaken by Mother Nature Cambodia within the face of adversity,” Right Livelihood mentioned in an announcement.
The Stockholm-headquartered NGO vowed to face in solidarity with Mother Nature Cambodia and referred to as on the Cambodian authorities to rethink its choice.
“Regardless of the court docket’s choice, we are going to honor and have a good time Mother Nature Cambodia on the Award Presentation on [Nov.] 29 in Stockholm,” the assertion learn. “Together, we are able to be certain that their efforts to guard the environment and promote justice are acknowledged as they rightfully deserve.”
Representatives of Right Livelihood declined to reply particular questions, deferring to the publicly obtainable assertion on-line, however activists with Mother Nature Cambodia had been vocal concerning the authorities’s choice.
“The choice by the prosecutor displays the barbarity and the way uncivilized the Cambodian authorities is,” mentioned Ly Chandaravuth, an environmental activist with the group. “It reveals that the court docket will not be impartial and shouldn’t be trusted.”
He reiterated that the prosecutor’s identified affiliation with the ruling social gathering calls into query the notion that Cambodia’s judiciary is impartial; Chandaravuth himself famous that he’s free to journey to Sweden for the award ceremony.
Of the three activists barred from leaving the nation by the court docket, Reaksmey and Kunthea had been every sentenced to 14 months in jail by Cambodia’s Supreme Court, whereas Ratha obtained an 18-month sentence. All had been launched in November 2021, six months earlier than they accomplished their sentences.
“The remaining jail time period was modified to court docket supervision for 3 years as an alternative,” Chandaravuth mentioned. “The court docket supervision consists of being banned from going overseas with out permission from prosecutor.
“The choice has additionally additional embarrassed Cambodia within the worldwide neighborhood,” he added. “Lastly, it reveals that the dedication of restoring human rights and democracy that [prime minister] Hun Manet boasted to worldwide neighborhood, together with on the U.N. [General Assembly], is meaningless.”
Activists from Mother Nature Cambodia in a ship. Image courtesy of Mother Nature Cambodia.
Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, the group’s founder who was exiled from Cambodia in 2015 after which barred from returning, mentioned the court docket’s choice was unsurprising given Mother Nature Cambodia’s pro-democracy activism, citing earlier examples.
“As for the ‘authorities,’ they don’t need the three Mother Nature Cambodia activists to go for 2 motive,” he mentioned. “First, as a result of it could set a precedent that different activists in related conditions may then use themselves to ask to depart the nation; and secondly, as a result of the Hun Manet regime doesn’t really feel snug with Mother Nature Cambodia activists going to such a big ceremony to inform folks what is admittedly occurring within the nation when it comes to pure destruction.”
Mother Nature Cambodia has routinely protested and campaigned in opposition to unlawful logging, harmful sand mining, the privatization of the nation’s pure sources, and the corruption that facilitates it.
“Either method, I believe that the Hun Manet regime has acted in a moderately dumb method right here,” Gonzalez-Davidson mentioned. “As this refusal to permit [the activists] to journey to Sweden will merely amplify the award message to start with, as we’re already seeing, with media shops from a number of nations reporting on it.”
When requested whether or not he felt the federal government would change its choice and permit the three activists to journey within the face of worldwide strain and media protection, Gonzalez-Davidson mentioned he’d be very stunned if the federal government backtracked.
He referred to as the federal government’s place a “lose-lose scenario,” in an obvious jab at former prime minister Hun Sen’s often-touted “win-win” slogan.
“They lose in the event that they now agree after already having mentioned no, as it’ll seem that they solely agreed after being criticized,” he mentioned. “And they lose in the event that they don’t agree, as their true colours can be uncovered as soon as however, not solely to the Cambodian viewers, however internationally too.”
Banner picture: Ly Chandaravuth (proper) with different activists. Image by Gerald Flynn / Mongabay.
Mother Nature Cambodia’s ‘relentless’ activism earns Right Livelihood Award
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