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Following the conviction and imprisonment of 10 Cambodian environmental activists for allegedly “plotting” and “insulting the king” under Articles 453 and 437 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) condemned the convictions for stifling civic space and freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, and demand the activists' immediate and unconditional release.

Mother Nature activist Phuon Keoraksmey being dragged into a car by the police after she was convicted on 2 July. (Photo from the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights - LICADHO)

On 2 July 2024,  10 environmental human rights defenders were convicted for allegedly “plotting” and “insulting the king” under Articles 453 and 437 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code.

FORUM-ASIA demands the immediate and unconditional release of these defenders and the overturning of their convictions. We urge the Cambodian Government to fulfil its commitment under international law to safeguard human rights defenders and uphold fundamental freedoms.

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, Sun Ratha, and Yim Leanghy were sentenced to 8 years in prison and fined 10 million riel each. Meanwhile, Ly Chandaravuth, Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phuon Keoraksmey, Binh Piseth, Pok Khoeuy, and Rai Raksa each received 6-year prison sentences.

The 10 are members of Mother Nature, a youth-led group which promotes environmental activism and peacefully campaigns against destructive and corrupt infrastructure projects. 

“These convictions significantly stifle civic space, free speech, and freedoms of peaceful assembly and association in Cambodia. It creates a climate of fear and sends a chilling message to all environmental human rights defenders, deterring them from speaking up and doing their invaluable work without fear,” said Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

“The broad application of legal provisions suppresses freedom of expression and may lead to self-censorship, thereby weakening civil society's ability to hold the government accountable,” Bacalso added. 

Such heightened scrutiny could restrict the activities of civil society organisations or even cause them to shut down. These convictions are a clear example of judicial harassment, undermining  democratic principles and the rule of law.

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