A court docket in Cambodia has charged three environmental activists with plotting in opposition to the authorities and insulting the king.
The members of the group Mother Nature had been arrested after they documented waste run-off into Phnom Penh’s Tonle Sap river.
Cambodia’s legislation in opposition to insulting the king is comparatively new and it’s not clear how the activists have completed so.
The three face between 5 and 10 years in jail.
The prosecution informed the Reuters information company that “the evidence collected by the police was an insult to the king” though they didn’t clarify precisely how the legislation had been violated.
Critics have warned that the legislation – launched in 2018 – is getting used as a software to silence dissent.
The activists are Sun Ratha, 26, Ly Chandaravuth, 22, and Yim Leanghy, 32, all members of activist group Mother Nature.
They had been detained on 16 June whereas documenting waste discharge into the Tonle Sap river close to the royal palace, according to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
“The Cambodian government has relentlessly targeted Mother Nature Cambodia,” Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, informed Reuters.
“This marks an escalation with the outrageous charges of ‘plotting’.”
Mother Nature founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who was deported in 2015 after he criticised plans for a controversial dam, was charged in absentia.
Last month, three different campaigners linked to the group had been sentenced to between 18 and 20 months in jail for organising a march in opposition to a lake in the capital being crammed with sand.
The embassies of Sweden and the United States have each criticised the charges.
“Very troubled to hear of the arrests of more environmental youth activists,” US ambassador Patrick Murpy stated. “Documenting pollution is a public service, not terrorism. We urge authorities to be responsive to its citizens, not to silence them.
“The Cambodian authorities has stepped up its marketing campaign to silence activists peacefully advocating to guard the environment,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
“Foreign governments, the United Nations nation group, and worldwide donors ought to name on the Cambodian authorities to drop their absurd charges in opposition to the environmental activists and publicly condemn any additional clampdown on peaceable activism.”
“Cambodia’s extremely politicised courts imply that the environmental activists charged haven’t any likelihood of getting a good trial,” he added.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed criticism of the charges, saying the government was simply applying the law.
Defendants should “discover a good lawyer to problem this concern in the courtroom as a substitute of fabricating the information,” he stated.
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy, with virtually all energy in the arms of Prime Minister Hun Sen who has run the nation for many years.
The authoritarian authorities is understood for cracking down harshly on criticism and dissent.