Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Shows Video Evidence Against Mother Nature Activists

Environmental activists talk to journalists after their hearing on June 17, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
Environmental activists talk to journalists after their hearing on June 17, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Ten video clips were played by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as evidence in the fourth hearing of 10 environmental activists, charged with insulting the King and a plot to overthrow the government.

 

During the full day hearing on Monday, court officials presented the videos, including a two-hour Zoom meeting, where the defendants talked about laying off two members in the network as well as a video production relating to environmental issues.

 

The clips mostly involved Spanish national Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of Mother Nature, who gave interviews to Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Cambodia Daily Khmer, criticizing former Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership.

 

“I don’t need to spend [my] time doing any [other] work [or] translation. I will spend my time making sure Hun Sen loses power in a peaceful way,” he said in a video, which accompanied a slideshow of a gold mine in Preah Vihear province.

 

According to defendant Ly Chandaravuth, “Alex gave personal interviews, which is his right to freedom of expression. It does not involve the Mother Nature movement and we have no right to shut his mouth.”

 

In the two-hour and 15 minutes Zoom meeting, activists Sun Ratha, who went by the username ‘Marishka’, Chandaravuth – ‘Bun Rany’ and Yim Leanghy – ‘Heng Samrin’, discussed the dismissal of members, as well as providing stipends to support environmental activities.

 

“[We] had discussed issues relating to the environment. The video clip [Zoom meeting] was stolen as evidence which I think was not right. In addition, there is no evidence [connecting us] to the charge to overthrow the government,” Leanghy told reporters after leaving the court.

 

“Where [in the meeting] does it show that we want to attack the government, leaders or ministerial institutions? There is none. We discussed environmental issues to demand for resolutions,” he said.

 

NGO rights group Licadho operations director Am Sam Ath, who attended the trial and watched the video evidence in court, opined that it was in relation to the citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of expression.

                                           

“We have not yet seen evidence indicating the plotting charges. It is their right to freedom of expression in the video clips,” he said, in reference to the topics discussed by the defendants.

 

He found that the Mother Nature case, which has been criticized by national and international organizations, was a “violation” of the activists’ fundamental rights of freedom of expression rather than a criminal offense.

 

“The participants were protecting the environment, it is their fundamental right,” Sam Ath said.

Gonzalez-Davidson was deported in 2015 and barred from entering Cambodia for his activism. He was found guilty along with four activists who were sentenced to up to 20 months in prison after being found guilty for incitement in 2021.

 

The fifth trial continues on June 24.

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