Cambodia: environmental defender beaten after reporting illegal loggingEvent
- Initial Date
- Jul 8, 2020
- Event Description
In a separate case, Chhorn Phalla, a forestry activist in his early 40s from Lumphat district�s Seda commune, said on Thursday that Ratanakiri officials had consistently ignored his complaints about forestry crimes, and he was beaten by villagers last week over his accusations.
During a press conference organized by Adhoc in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Phalla said he had filed eight complaints in about four years to the Ratanakiri Provincial Court, accusing provincial officials and other residents of condoning and benefiting from forestry crimes.
At a public forum in Seda commune on July 8, the activist told attendees that authorities were ignoring his legal complaints. Then, Phalla was beaten until he lost consciousness by individuals who he said he had filed complaints against.
After the alleged assault, the activist said he asked Lumphat district governor Nou The for help, but The told him to stop filing complaints against provincial authorities.
�District governor Nou The, he threatened me. He said that if I still protest over forestry crimes, he will arrest and imprison me,� Phalla said.
When contacted by VOD on Thursday, The said he would not comment on the case over the phone.
�I don�t have a habit of talking through the phone,� he said. �As a request, please gather four, 10 or 20 journalists to visit Seda commune to hold a press conference with people. Hold a press conference like Phalla and come to hear the real words from people that tell the truth.�
Ratanakiri Provincial Court spokesperson Keo Pisoth could not be reached for comment.
Phalla also appealed to national authorities to stop forestry crimes throughout the province and said he would submit a report about the attack to officials once he recovered from his injuries.
�I would like Samdech [Prime Minister Hun Sen] to help find justice for us,� Phalla told reporters on Thursday. �[I invite] all ministries to visit and inspect directly at the site, and if Samdech has heard [my complaint], I can hand over documents directly to Samdech because I am a victim. I am a protector [of forests] with him.�
At the press conference, Adhoc�s human rights officer Ny Sokha said it is a crime for public officials to threaten citizens who make complaints, and he worried the governor�s actions could prevent individuals from trying to protect Cambodia�s natural resources.
According to the Criminal Code, any intimidation or threat that is meant to persuade someone not to file a complaint is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 6 million riel ($1,500), while an �effective� threat is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million riel ($2,500).
�If there is no action, I think that from now on, those human rights protectors, forestry protectors, state property protectors, natural resource protectors might no longer dare to act because when they come out, they are abused and authorities do not find justice for them,� Sokha said. �This has a bad influence [on activism]. So, I think the government might not ignore [this case].�
Sokha said Phalla and seven other activists from Ratanakiri were staying outside their village, Samut Krom, for fear of possible repercussions.
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said he was not familiar with Phalla�s case, but he encouraged the activist to contact Environment Minister Say Samal.
�[Samal] is very welcoming of help to protect the forests,� Siphan said. �The government as well as the Environment Ministry are always welcoming of such things.�
Ministry spokesperson Neth Pheaktra did not respond to requests for comment.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to information
- Environmental rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 8 July 2020, Chhorn Phalla, environmental defender, was beaten by villagers after reporting illegal logging to police and asked for protection many times in Seda Commune, Cambodia.