A court in Cambodia has charged three environmental activists with plotting against the government and insulting the king. The members of the group Mother Nature were arrested after they documented waste run-off into Phnom Penh’s Tonle Sap river. Cambodia’s law against insulting the king is relatively new and it is not clear how the activists have done so. The three face between five and 10 years in prison.
The prosecution told the Reuters news agency that “the evidence collected by the police was an insult to the king” although they did not explain exactly how the law had been violated. Critics have warned that the law – introduced in 2018 – is being used as a tool to silence dissent. The activists are Sun Ratha, 26, Ly Chandaravuth, 22, and Yim Leanghy, 32, all members of activist group Mother Nature. They were detained on 16 June while documenting waste discharge into the Tonle Sap river near the royal palace, according to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. All three activists had been arrested in September 2020 and spent almost eight months in pretrial detention. Gonzalez-Davidson and Chea Kunthin, another activist, were also convicted in absentia and sentenced to between 18 and 20 months in prison.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch said that the Cambodian government should immediately drop baseless conspiracy and “insulting the king” charges against four environmental activists affiliated with the Mother Nature Cambodia environmental group and release the three in pretrial detention.