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Cambodia
06.05.21
Urgent Interventions

Cambodia: Sentencing of five environmental activists

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
KHM 002 / 0920 / OBS 101.1
Sentencing/
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Cambodia
May 6, 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.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing of five environmental activists, namely Mother Nature[1] members Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, and Alejandro González-Davidson, and Khmer Thavrak member Chea Kunthin, for planning a peaceful demonstration to denounce the exploitation of Phnom Penh’s Bueng Ta-mouk lake[2].

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. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, 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.

Alejandro González-Davidson and 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 Court issued arrest warrants for Ms. Chea Kunthin and Mr. González-Davidson, who lives overseas since he was deported from Cambodia on February 23, 2015.

The Observatory recalls that since September 6, 2020, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, and Thun Ratha have been held in pre-trial detention on charges of “incitement to cause societal chaos”, following their arrest on September 3, 2020 as they were 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.

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 reiterates its deepest concern about the fact that Cambodian authorities systematically use 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 sentencing of Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, 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.

Actions requested:

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

  1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia;
  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, and Phoun Keo Reaksmey, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;
  1. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Thun Ratha, Long Kunth, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, Alejandro González-Davidson, and Chea Kunthin and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

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. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: moj@cambodia.gov.kh
  • Mr. Suon Visal, 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, May 6, 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.

[2] The project aims to build a military base, which will destroy the habitat of many bird species and damage biodiversity, and is also expected to cause significant flooding in Phnom Penh.

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