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16 Nov 2021

Mom Kunthear, The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia: 85 CSOs call for the releases of all environmental rights defenders and land community representatives and their charges be dropped

"85 CSOs appeal for drop of all charges against activists", 16 November 2021

A group of 85 civil society organisations (CSOs)and associations have asked the government to release representatives of land communities and other forest, natural resource and environment activists who have all recently been detained.

In a joint statement …, representatives of the 85 CSOs urged the drop of all charges against them unconditionally.

Ministry of Justice officials, however, said that in a country that observes the rule of law it is not reasonable to expect that charges will be dropped against those perpetrating criminal acts simply because some members of the public request it…

One of the detainees is Chhorn Phalla, a prominent forest activist in Ratanakkiri province who was involved with the protection of indigenous community land in Lumphat district’s Seda commune…

Another is Phon Sophal, a community representative in Choam Kravien commune of Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district who was arrested in Preah Sihanouk province … and was taken into custody at Tbong Khmum provincial prison.

A third is Chan Thoeun, a forest activist who is accused of attempted murder by a logger identified as Pak Yang Kuo – the son of the Kampong Thom provincial gendarmerie’s deputy commander.

The 85 CSOs also called for the release of Khem Sokhy and So Thal, both of whom are members of the Prey Lang Community Network in Preah Vihear province.

“[We] have observed persecution carried out by the authorities and unjust charges by the judiciary. Most of them have been charged with incitement to commit crimes, inciting serious unrest that harms social security and other politically affiliated crimes designed to silence critics,” said the statement…