Cambodia: youth, environmentalists under surveillanceEvent
- Initial Date
- Jan 13, 2023
- Event Description
Youth environmental activists advocating against the development of a Koh Kong island say they are facing threats and surveillance after authorities blocked an advocacy push at a Royal University of Phnom Penh event earlier this month.
A group of about 50 young activists organized a stall at an RUPP event in mid-January selling coconuts, providing leaflets and talks on the potential development of Koh Kong Krao island in Koh Kong province. Activists from Mother Nature and Khmer Thavrak have advocated for the government to refrain from leasing the island for development.
The stall — which was set up during the 63rd anniversary celebrations of the university — was shut down by district officials and university staff who considered it against university policies, activists said.
Since then, the activists allege they have faced surveillance from local authorities.
Phuon Keoreaksmey, a fourth-year university student and a Mother Nature activist, said the group was initially allowed to set up the stall in the university premises during the anniversary celebrations hosted from January 13th to 15th.
But on the first day of the event, local authorities and the university’s rector summoned them for a meeting and said they had to close down the stall and were banned from distributing any leaflets with messages about Koh Kong Krao island.
“They dare not to follow their own decision and work based on the advice of another person,” she said.
Kim Chilin, a Mother Nature activist and RUPP student, said authorities were monitoring his residence and even following him since then. He said this was a threat and aimed at affecting the morale of activists advocating for environmental rights.
“Me and my friends were followed by authorities to our homes. This is a kind of threat. For me, I think that it should not have happened to me,” he said.
Last month, activists also distributed pamphlets and held banners at the university’s Institute for Foreign Languages, urging authorities to not allow the development of the island. The Environment Ministry in 2020 said it was assessing whether to allow for development of the island, which was granted to notorious tycoon Ly Yong Phat, who got the development rights to the island in 2019.
Men Sreydav, another activist who was part of the advocacy effort, said authorities began following members of the group as soon as they distributed the leaflets.
“Generally, they followed us to our houses after our dissemination activities. I am worried about my safety because I always come out to do activities,” he said.
VOD could not reach Phnom Penh City Hall spokesperson Met Measpheakdey and Tuol Kork deputy district governor Teav Sam Oeun denied the accusations.
“I would like to deny that authority did not threaten them,” he said. “Whenever they have proper permission, we will cooperate immediately.”
The government has routinely blocked youth and environmental activists for advocating for their issues, even arresting and jailing them.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- Administrative Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of expression
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Environmental rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 13 Janurary 2023, a group of youth affiliated with the environmental group Mother Nature Cambodia were denied by local authorities to set up a stall to raise awareness on environmental issues during an event, and after that were placed under surveillance by the police in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.