Cambodia sentences green campaigners for ‘plotting’ over activism

Phnom Penh, Cambodia — A Cambodian court on Tuesday sentenced 10 environmentalists to between six and eight years in jail for plotting to commit crimes in their activism, the latest legal crackdown on the country’s green campaigners.

The campaigners from Mother Nature, one of Cambodia’s few environmental activism groups, denied the charges, which they said were politically motivated.

Am Sam Ath, operations director of rights group LICADHO, told AFP the court sentenced the activists to jail terms ranging from six to eight years.

He said three of them, including Mother Nature co-founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, a Spaniard deported from Cambodia in 2015, were sentenced to eight years for plotting against the government and insulting the king.

Seven others were sentenced to six years in prison on unspecified plotting charges.

Six of the defendants were sentenced in absentia, while the four who were present were seized by police outside the court and taken away, according to an AFP journalist.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month condemned the trial as an attempt to “muzzle criticism of governmental policies.”

HRW said Mother Nature had campaigned for more than a decade against damaging infrastructure projects and “exposed corruption in the management of Cambodia’s natural resources.”

The charges against the 10 activists related to Mother Nature’s activism between 2012 and 2021.

The group raised issues around the filling-in of lakes in Phnom Penh, illegal logging, and the destruction of natural resources across the country.

The tussle over protecting or exploiting Cambodia’s natural resources has long been a contentious issue in the kingdom, with environmentalists threatened, arrested and even killed in the past decade.

Three of the activists sentenced Tuesday had previously been jailed for organizing a peaceful march protesting the filling-in of a lake in the capital to create land for real estate developments.

From 2001 to 2015, a third of Cambodia’s primary forests, some of the world’s most biodiverse and a key carbon sink, were cleared, and tree cover loss accelerated faster than anywhere else in the world, according to the World Resources Institute.

Much of the cleared land has been granted to businesses in concessions that experts say have driven deforestation and dispossession in the country.

your ad here

leave a reply: