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Cambodia: Conviction of youth activists a further blow to Cambodia’s environmental movement

© Mother Nature Cambodia
© Mother Nature Cambodia

Responding to news that 10 environmental activists associated with the Mother Nature Cambodia group were convicted by the Phnom Penh Capital Court of “plotting” and “insulting the King”, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, Montse Ferrer, said:

“Today’s decision is another crushing blow to Cambodia’s civil society. Mother Nature Cambodia is a renowned activist group that has brought attention to environmental degradation fuelled by long-standing corruption in the country.  

“Instead of listening to young leaders at the forefront of the environmental movement, the Cambodian government has chosen to jail those that dare to speak out.

“The government has shown time and time again that it will not tolerate any dissent. This verdict is yet another sign that Cambodia’s government has no intention of protecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

“Cambodian authorities must release all these environmental defenders immediately and unconditionally.”


The trial of the 10 Mother Nature Cambodia activists began on 29 May 2024 at the Phnom Penh Capital Court. Yim Leanghy, Sun Ratha and Spanish national Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson were charged with “insulting the King” and “plotting” under Articles 437-bis and 453 of the Criminal Code. Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phuon Keoraksmey, Ly Chandaravuth, Binh Piseth, Rai Raksa and Pork Khoeuy were charged with “plotting”. The charges stem from Mother Nature’s public activism since 2012.

On 5 June 2024, five Mother Nature Movement activists refused to enter the courtroom because authorities arbitrarily prevented some media and supporters from monitoring the public hearing. The hearing proceeded without any of the charged activists present on the day.

The Phnom Penh Capital Court today found 10 Mother Nature Cambodia activists guilty. Chandaravuth, Thun Ratha, Kunthea, Keoraksmey, Piseth, Raksa and Khoeuy were sentenced to six years in prison on “plotting” under Article 453. Sun Ratha, Gonzalez-Davidson and Leanghy were sentenced eight years in prison with a KHR 10,000,000 fine for “plotting” and “insulting the King” under Articles 453 and 437. Gonzalez-Davidson is permanently disallowed from being in Cambodia after serving his sentence.

Several of the activists have previously been imprisoned for their peaceful environmental activism. Sun Ratha, Leanghy and Chandaravuth spent nearly five months in pre-trial detention during 2021 under the same charges. Thun Ratha, Kunthea and Keoraksmey were arrested in September 2020 on separate incitement charges for peacefully demonstrating against the in-filling of an urban lake. They spent more than 14 months in prison.

Mother Nature Cambodia’s activism has focused on bringing attention to environmental degradation. The group’s activism has resonated with Cambodian youth who have found themselves with little influence over decisions that affect the environment. Mother Nature has successfully brought attention to issues of sand dredging, lake-infilling and pollution.

The group was awarded Sweden’s 2023 Right Livelihood award for its activism but its members could not travel to Stockholm to receive the award in-person because of the charges against them.

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