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1 Apr 2021

Khy Sovuthy, CamboJA

Cambodia: Phnom Penh Court hold trial hearing of environmental activists charged with incitement

"Trial begins against Mother Nature activists", 1 April 2021

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court began hearings … in the trial against three environmental activists charged with incitement after sharing information about a planned one-person protest over the by the filling in of Boeng Tamok lake.

Long Kunthea, Phuon Keoreaksmey, and Thon Ratha — activists with the NGO Mother Nature — were arrested … over posts they made or shared on social media saying Kunthea planned to march to the prime minister’s house to raise awareness on the environmental impact of the lake development project.

They were charged with direct incitement to commit a felony or to disturb social security, under articles 494 and 495 of the criminal code. If found guilty the trio could face up to two years in prison. Mother Nature director Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson was handed the same charges in absentia along with Young Khmer Thavark Movement member Chea Kunthin…

The judge and deputy prosecutor spent time questioning all three about their work with Mother Nature …, asking them to detail various volunteer efforts in Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, and Phnom Penh, including biking to raise environmental awareness…

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said that the activities the trio testified to in court, such as fighting for protection of the Koh Kong Krao area in Koh Kong; addressing the trash problem in Preah Sihanouk; and the Boeng Tamok lake case shows only that they are a youth group that loves the environment and natural resources.

“I regret that they were arrested and charged and sent to pretrial detention,” said Sam Ath, adding that the government should encourage them to continue to protect the environment…