Mother Nature Cambodia activists sentenced to six to eight years for defending nature

Arrest of an activist from Mother Nature Cambodia Activist Phuon Keoraksmey is forcibly pushed into a police vehicle (© LICADHO - CC BY-NC 4.0) Demonstration by Mother Nature Cambodia Activist Thun Ratha carries a sign reading “Justice is dead” (© LICADHO - CC BY-NC 4.0) Imprisoned activists of Mother Nature Cambodia Victims of injustice: five of the ten convicted (© Mother Nature Cambodia)

Jul 2, 2024

On July 2, a Phnom Penh court sentenced environmental activists from Mother Nature Cambodia to lengthy prison terms. Seven of them were sentenced to six years, three of them to no less than eight years. We demand their immediate release!

Four of the activists were arrested outside the courthouse: Dressed in traditional white mourning clothes, they led a “funeral procession” to grieve the death of justice in Cambodia. After the verdict, they were rounded up by 50 police officers and security guards and dragged into police cars.

Phuon Keoraksmey, who has already served 14 months in 2020, said she was ready to go back to prison, according to ABC News: “But I never want to go back to jail because I never did anything wrong. But I will never run from what I am responsible for. I chose this way, I chose this path,” she said.

Mother Nature Cambodia is a partner of Rainforest Rescue and a recipient of the 2023 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

We demand the immediate release of these ten activists! Please sign our petition if you haven’t already.

Mother Nature activists have endured harassment, threats and criminal charges for years. They have been peacefully campaigning to protect nature from destructive infrastructure projects such as sand mining in Koh Kong province and development on Koh Kong island.

Ly Chandaravuth, Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phuon Keoraksmey, Binh Piseth, Pok Khoeuy and Rai Raksa were sentenced to six years in prison for conspiracy against the state.

Sun Ratha, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson and Yim Leanghy received an additional two years for allegedly defaming the king, for a total sentence of eight years. They were also fined the equivalent of $2,500.

Ly Chandaravuth, Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea and Phuon Keoreaksmey were arrested outside the courthouse.

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of Mother Nature Cambodia, who was deported from Cambodia in 2015, called the verdict a “disastrous decision by the Hun family regime”. (Prime Minister Hun Sen ruled the country for almost 40 years, and was suceeded by his son Hun Manet in 2023.)

“No one benefits from [it], let alone the government. As we have seen with previous cases like this, this tends to send people into shock for a while, but ultimately backfires because it inspires many others to take [the jailed activists'] place,” he told the BBC.

Worldwide reporting

The shocking verdict of the court in Phnom Penh was reported in the media and by human rights organizations worldwide:

Cambodian court jails activists for plotting against government, insulting king Reuters News (July 2, 2024)

Cambodia jails green activists for 'anti-state plot'  BBC News (July 2, 2024)

Cambodia: Environmental Activists Sentenced to 6 to 8 Years  Human Rights Watch (July 2, 2024)

Cambodia: Conviction of youth activists a further blow to Cambodia’s environmental movement  Amnesty International (July 2, 2024)

Mother Nature Activists Violently Arrested, Sentenced to 6-8 Years LICADHO (July 2, 2024)

Cambodia must immediately release Mother Nature activists! Right Livelihood, Stockholm (July 2, 2024)

Mother Nature Cambodia activists sentenced to prison — again Mongabay (July 2, 2024)

This page is available in the following languages:

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Stay in the loop on rainforest conservation issues with our free newsletter!