Cambodian justice has charged three young environmentalists with conspiring against the government and insulting the king. The three members of the Mother Nature group were arrested after discovering that garbage had ended up in a river near Phnom Penh.
Cambodian law against insulting the king is relatively new. It is not clear exactly how the activists allegedly insulted the king. According to the court, the three face a prison sentence of five to ten years.
The prosecutor told Reuters news agency that “the evidence collected by the police was an insult to the king”, but could not explain how the law was broken. Critics warned in 2018, when the law was introduced, that it could be used to silence dissenters.
The activists are called Sun Ratha (26), Ly Chandavaruth (22) and Yim Leanghy (32) and are all members of the activist group Mother Nature. They were arrested on June 16, according to the Cambodian Human Rights Center. Cambodian human rights organization Licadho believes the Cambodian government has been “ruthless”. “This is a scandalous charge of scheming,” the organization told Reuters.
Last month, three other activists linked to Mother Nature were also arrested after they organized a march against filling a lake with sand. They were all sentenced to eighteen to twenty months in prison.
United States responds
The US Embassy in Cambodia called it “very disturbing to hear about the arrest of environmental activists.” “Detecting pollution is a service to the community, not to terrorism,” said US Ambassador Patrick Murphy. “We urge the authorities to listen to the citizens and not to silence them.”
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