Swedish parliamentarians urge justice for Mother Nature Cambodia activists

Dear Prosecutor Seng Heang,

We, the undersigned MPs, are writing you to express our deep concern at the situation of six members of 2023 Right Livelihood Laureate Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC), who are currently facing trial on bogus charges linked to their peaceful activism.

Mother Nature Cambodia is an internationally recognised youth movement that uses innovative, peaceful techniques to raise unprecedented awareness about the threats posed to Cambodia’s natural ecosystems by infrastructure development, sand extraction scams, overdevelopment of public beaches, sewage pollution, unsafe mining practices, and other environmental crimes.

MNC members Ly Chandaravuth, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keoreaksmey and Thun Ratha face 5 to 10 years in prison for allegedly “plotting against the government”. Due to their additional charge of “insulting the king”, Yim Leanghy and Sun Ratha face up to 15 years in prison. We are extremely concerned that they are being subjected to harsh repression and judicial harassment only for their peaceful human rights activities.

This is not the first time that members of Mother Nature Cambodia have faced reprisals for their work in defence of the environment, they have previously been subjected to continual intimidation, legal harassment, and police surveillance.

We are particularly concerned at incidents which appear to be in violation of MNC members’ right to due process. The trial, which began on May 29, 2024, was attended by representatives from the European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. During the hearing, lawyers left the room and chatted with judges, casting doubt on the fairness of the trial. In an unexpected turn of events, the second hearing, on June 5, was held behind closed doors. This decision was courageously boycotted by the defendants, who sat outside the court in a peaceful protest.

We are truly appalled by the criminalisation of MNC’s activities and by the lengthy sentences its members are facing. We stand in full solidarity with them. We reiterate that they should be honoured for their admirable and brave human rights activism and emphasise that they are playing a crucial role in raising awareness about climate-related issues in Cambodia.

In light of the above, we call on your good offices to:

  • Refrain from prosecuting all six MNC members, whose peaceful actions in defence of the environment do not constitute criminal offences in any way. On the contrary, all those responsible and complicit in the destruction of Cambodia’s natural resources, which MNC has been trying to protect at great personal cost, should be immediately prosecuted and accountability provided to the victims;
  • Uphold international human rights principles and respect the Constitution of Cambodia by safeguarding MNC members’ right to a fair trial and due process;
  • Adopt all necessary measures to halt the current judicial harassment of MNC members and guarantee that all charges against them are dropped.

Signed:

Åsa Eriksson, Member of Swedish Parliament, Social Democrats

Peter Hedberg, Member of Swedish Parliament, Social Democrats

Ulrika Westerlund, Member of Swedish Parliament, Green Party

Lotta Johnsson Fornarve, Member of Swedish Parliament, Left Party

Cecilia Engström, Member of Swedish Parliament,  Christian Democrats

Roland Utbult, Member of Swedish Parliament, Christian Democrats

Malin Danielsson, Member of Swedish Parliament,  Liberal Party

Jan Axel Nordlander, Chair Initiative Cambodia, former Swedish Ambassador of Human Rights