Cambodia: 6 to 8 years in prison for environmental activists

“Justice is dead,” wrote many Cambodian internet users on social networks this Tuesday, June 2, reports the news site Mongabay News. The cause: the conviction, earlier in the day, by the Phnom Penh court of ten young environmental activists, members of the environmental NGO Mother Nature, accused of “conspiracy to overthrow the government” and D’“insults against the king”, precise CamboJA News.

Seven of them were sentenced to six years in prison, the other three to eight years in prison and a fine of 10 million riels (2,250 euros). The Spaniard Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of the group and expelled from Cambodia in 2015 because of his activism, was also banned from entering and staying in the country.

Before the judgment, four of the accused and about fifty supporters arrived in front of the court simulating a funeral procession, in white, the color of mourning, as shown in the video above, posted on the YouTube channel of South China Morning Post. They were violently arrested after the verdict was announced. A fifth was arrested later in the day.

A state that tolerates “no dissent”

According to The Phnom Penh Post, The facts alleged against the activists date back to May 2021, when they allegedly exchanged remarks during a Zoom meeting:insulting” against Former Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni. But many international human rights organizations say the trial is in reality a pretext to once again silence critics of government policies. In a statement, Amnesty International denounced a new “A hard blow for Cambodia’s civil society” :

“The government is showing once again that it does not tolerate any dissent.”

On Twitter, Igor DriesmansEuropean Union ambassador to Cambodia, said “deeply concerned by the increasing persecution and arrests of human rights defenders in Cambodia.”

Government spokesman Pen Bona, for his part, replied that it was on the contrary a judicial process that respected the values ​​of the rule of law, reports the Phnom Penh Post.

“Those who provide constructive criticism or comments on social issues are not prosecuted. Legal action is only taken against those who violate Cambodian law,” he told Cambodian media.

Highly appreciated by many Cambodians, Mother Nature is known for its awareness-raising actions against environmentally destructive development projects. An action and popularity that terribly displeases the Cambodian government. In June 2021, members of the association had already been prosecuted for terrorism.

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