DOWNLOAD A PDF OF UA 73/21, UPDATE 1 HERE
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Six youth activists from Mother Nature Cambodia, a well-known environmental group that campaigns against environmental destruction and related human rights abuses, continue to face ongoing persecution. Three of the activists, already sentenced to 18-20 months imprisonment for trumped up charges of incitement, face an additional 10 years behind bars for “plotting” to endanger the Kingdom of Cambodia. Imprisoned solely for peacefully protecting the environment, advocating for climate justice, and promoting the rights of local communities, they should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Please ask the Prime Minister to:
- Ensure the pardon and immediate release of Long Kunthea, Phuon Keoraksmey, and Thun Ratha and quash their convictions.
- Drop all pending charges against Long Kunthea, Phuon Keoraksmey, Thun Ratha, Sun Ratha, Ly Chandaravuth and Yim Leanghy and ensure their immediate and unconditional release from prison,
- Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from all forms of ill-treatment and provided access to adequate healthcare,
- End the harassment, intimidation and persecution of Mother Nature Cambodia and all environmental activists and groups and provide adequate support and protection to those working on defending the environment in Cambodia.
Prime Minister Hun Sen
Jok Dimitrov Boulevard
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
His Excellency Sovann Ke
Ambassador for the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations
327 East 58th Street
New York NY 10022, USA
Phone: 212 336 0777
Fax: 212 759 7672
Long Kunthea (22), Phuon Keoraksmey (19), and Thun Ratha (29) were charged with ‘plotting’ under article 453 of the Criminal Code by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court during the week of 21 July 2021. If convicted, they could face 10 years in prison, in addition to the 18-20 months they are currently serving on charges of “incitement”.
“Plotting” is an exceptionally serious charge akin to terrorism or other offences against the state – it is intended to cover situations whereby individuals take steps towards committing an attack, or acts of violence, liable to endanger the institutions of the Kingdom of Cambodia or violate the integrity of the national territory.
The three were first arrested in September 2020, soon after publicly announcing a plan to undertake a two-person march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house to express concerns regarding plans to privatize and develop Boeung Tamok lake, Phnom Penh’s largest remaining lake.
Long Kunthea and Phuon Keoraksmey were sentenced to 18 months in prison for “incitement to commit a felony or disturb social order” under Articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code and fined 4 million riel each (approximately $1,000 USD). Thun Ratha was sentenced to 20 months under the same charges and also fined 4 million riel.
Sun Ratha (26), Ly Chandaravuth (22) and Yim Leanghy (32) were arrested on 16 June while two of them were investigating river pollution in the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh. On 21 June, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Im Vannak confirmed that Sun Ratha and Yim Leanghy were charged with both “plotting” and “insulting the King”, under articles 453 and 437 (bis) of the Cambodian Criminal Code, which carry maximum prison sentences of 10 years and 5 years, respectively, while Ly Chandaravuth was charged with “plotting” only.
Yim Leanghy and Ly Chandaravuth were sent to pre-trial detention in CC1 prison and Sun Ratha was sent to CC2 prison.
These activists are all affiliated with environmental group Mother Nature Cambodia, a prominent campaign group which has won several major environmental victories. Using a combination of community mobilization, direct action and public awareness raising, in 2015 they successfully convinced the Cambodian authorities to drop plans to build a major hydroelectric dam in Cambodia’s Areng Valley, which had gravely threatened local Indigenous communities.
In 2016, their work to expose widespread environmental destruction and human rights abuses linked to the mining and export of sand from coastal areas of Cambodia led to yet another major victory – a total export ban on coastal sand announced by the Cambodian government.
Mother Nature Cambodia activists have faced a litany of repression in recent years, with many activists arbitrarily charged and imprisoned. Several of its activists have been imprisoned on baseless criminal charges of “incitement”. The group has been accused of “causing chaos in society” and characterized as “illegal” by Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior because it is not registered under Cambodia’s notorious NGO Law.
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