Alert: Read our new report on the effects of Covid-19 on torture in Mexico
Cambodia
22.06.21
Urgent Interventions

Cambodia: Mother Nature members targeted

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

KHM 002 / 0621 / OBS 074
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Risk to the health
Cambodia
June 22, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of environmental rights defenders Sun Ratha, Seth Chhiv Limeng, Ly Chandarvuth, and Yim Leanghy, and the judicial harassment of Alejandro González-Davidson. All of them are members of Mother Nature Cambodia[1].

On June 16, 2021, at around 11am, police in Phnom Penh’s Duan Penh District arrested Sun Ratha, Seth Chhiv Limeng, and Ly Chandarvuth, after the three had documented and filmed runoff into the Tonle Sap River near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. They were subsequently brought to the Police Private Security Management Department of the Ministry of Interior for questioning.

On the same day, Yim Leanghy was summoned for questioning by police in Koh Thom District, in Kandal Province, and arrested upon his arrival to the police station. He was subsequently transferred to the Police Private Security Management Department of the Ministry of the Interior in Phnom Penh.

While Seth Chhiv Limeng was released without charges on June 17, 2021, Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth, and Yim Leanghy appeared before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 18, 2021. Ly Chandarvuth was charged with “plotting” (Article 453 of the Criminal Code). Sun Ratha, Yim Leanghy, and Alejandro González-Davidson were charged with “plotting” and “insulting the King (Article 437(bis) of the Criminal Code. Alejandro González-Davidson, who lives overseas was charged in absentia. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison for “plotting” and 5 years for “insulting the King”. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, Sun Ratha remains detained in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Centre 2, and Ly Chandarvuth and Yim Leanghy in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Centre 1.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that Mother Nature Cambodia activists have faced harassment. On May 5, 2021, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, and Thun Ratha to prison sentences ranging from 18 to 20 months and to a fine of 4 million riel (approximately 825 Euros) each on charges of “incitement to cause societal chaos” (Articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code), after 8 months of pre-trial detention. Thun Ratha remains detained in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Centre 1, while Long Kunthea and Phoun Keo Reaksmey remain detained in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Centre 2. On the same day, Alejandro González-Davidson was sentenced in absentia to 20 months in prison on charges of being an “accomplice” (Article 29 of the Criminal Code).


The Observatory further recalls that on September 7, 2020, the Ministry of Interior released a statement instructing authorities to take legal action against members of Mother Nature, accusing the group of “causing social chaos”, and labelling them as “illegal” for not being registered under the repressive Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (“LANGO”).

The Observatory condemns the judicial harassment of Yim Leanghy, Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth, and Alejandro González-Davidson, and expresses great concern about the health risks Yim Leanghy, Sun Ratha, and Ly Chandarvuth are facing while detained due to the high risk of COVID-19 infection in the overcrowded Cambodian prisons. The Observatory urges the Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them as well as all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country.

The Observatory reiterates its deepest concern about the fact that Cambodian authorities continue to use legal harassment and the politicised judicial system to target land and environment rights defenders and environmental activists. The Observatory further expresses grave concern over the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, particularly the increased obstacles to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Cambodia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cambodia to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth, and Yim Leanghy, and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia;

    ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth and Yim Leanghy as well as Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, Thun Ratha, and all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;

    iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment -including at the judicial level- against Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth, Yim Leanghy, Alexander González-Davidson and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia.

    Addresses:

    • Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh / cppparty@gmail.com
    • Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: moi@cambodia.gov.kh
    • Mr. Keut Rith, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: info@moj.gov.kh
    • Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh / mfaicasean@mfaic.gov.kh
    • Mr. Ly Chantola, President of the Cambodian Bar Association. Email: info@bakc.org.kh
    • Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh

    Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

    ***

    Geneva-Paris, June 22, 2021

    Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

    To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

    • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
    • Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
    • Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18


    [1] Mother Nature is an environmental rights grassroots organisation that was officially de-registered in September 2017, but continues its activities as a movement of concerned citizens.

    Sign up now

    Subscribe to our latest news & alerts