URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
KHM 002 / 0920 / OBS 101.2
Arbitrary detention /
July 28, 2021
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.
The Observatory has been informed about the new charges brought against environmental activists and members of Mother Nature Cambodia Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, and Phoun Keo Reaksmey. In May 2021, Mr. Ratha was sentenced to 20 months in prison and remains detained in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Centre 1, while Mses. Kunthea and Keo Reaksmey were sentenced to 18 months in prison and remain detained in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Centre 2.
On July 19, 2021, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, and Phoun Keo Reaksmey with “plotting” (Article 453 of the Criminal Code) after being brought to court for questioning without the presence of their lawyers. If found guilty, they could face up to 10 years in prison.
The new charge pressed against them would be connected to a case opened against environmental rights defenders Sun Ratha, Seth Chhiv Limeng, Ly Chandarvuth, Yim Leanghy, and Alejandro González-Davidson, who have been facing charges of “plotting” and “insulting the King” (Article 437(bis) of the Criminal Code) since June 2021.
The Observatory recalls that on May 5, 2021, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Long Kunthea and Phoun Keo Reaksmey to 18 months in prison and a fine of 4 million riel (approximately 825 Euros) on charges of “incitement to cause societal chaos” (Articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian Criminal Code). Thun Ratha was sentenced to 20 months in prison and a fine of 4 million riel on the same charges.
On the same day, Mother Nature activist Alejandro González-Davidson and Khmer Thavrak member Chea Kunthin were sentenced in absentia to 20 and 18 months in prison respectively, on charges of “accomplice” (Article 29 of the Cambodian Criminal Code) and “incitement to cause societal chaos”, and to a fine of 4 million riel each.
The Observatory further recalls that Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, and Thun Ratha have been held in pre-trial detention on charges of “incitement to cause societal chaos” since September 6, 2020, following their arrest on September 3, 2020 for planning a solo protest calling for the protection of Phnom Penh’s Bueng Ta-mouk lake. Ms. Chea Kunthin was arrested and subsequently released in August 2020, after signing an agreement stating she would not participate in a protest calling for the release of human rights defender Rong Chhun.
On September 7, 2020, the Ministry of Interior released a statement instructing authorities to take legal action against members of Mother Nature Cambodia, accusing the group of “causing social chaos”, and labelling the organisation as illegal for not being registered under the repressive Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (“LANGO”).
The Observatory reiterates its deepest concern about the fact that Cambodian authorities have systematically used legal harassment and the politicised judicial system to target land and environmental activists, and recalls in particular that this is not the first time that Mother Nature Cambodia activists have faced harassment.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth, and Yim Leanghy, as well as the judicial harassment of Alejandro González-Davidson and Chea Kunthin, as it seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate environmental and human rights activities, and urges the Cambodian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against them and immediately and unconditionally release the above-mentioned human rights defenders.
Please write to the authorities of Cambodia to urge them to:
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth, Yim Leanghy, Chea Kunthin, and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia;
- Immediately and unconditionally release Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth and Yim Leanghy, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;
- Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, Sun Ratha, Ly Chandarvuth, Yim Leanghy, Chea Kunthin, Alejandro González-Davidson, and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities in all circumstances without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
- Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
- Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. KOEUT Rith, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: email@example.com
- Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
- Mr. Ly Chantola, President of the Cambodian Bar Association. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.
Geneva-Paris, July 28, 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
 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.
 Khmer Thavrak is a youth group created in 2020 that advocates against social injustices and raises concerns about environmental issues in Cambodia.
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