Four environmental activists in Cambodia have been charged with insulting the king and conspiring to plot against the government.
Sun Ratha, 26, Ly Chandaravuth, 22, and Yim Leanghy, 32, were arrested on Wednesday Jun. 16 after they documented waste discharge into a river near the royal palace in the country’s capital Phnom Penh, according to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
The activists are members of Mother Nature Cambodia. The group’s founder, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson has been overseas since being deported in 2015 and was convicted in absentia. Under the charges, they face five to 10 years in prison.
“The evidence collected by the police was an insult to the king,” the deputy prosecutor told Reuters, without elaborating on how the activists specifically violated the law. Gonzalez-Davidson told Reuters the charges were “completely fabricated” and reflected government’s paranoia about its own citizens.
“As for the charges against me, I see them as further recognition that the regime sees my peaceful activism as a threat,” he said.
Last month, three other environmental activists related to the group were sentenced to 18 to 20 months in jail for organizing a march to the prime minister’s home against a lake in the capital being filled with sand, according to the BBC.
“These outrageous charges are a blatant attempt to silence and intimidate not only Mother Nature Cambodia, but an entire generation of Cambodian youth who have dared to stand up for human rights and environmental justice,” rights group Amnesty International said.
A government spokesman told Reuters the defendants should “find a good lawyer to challenge this issue in the courtroom instead of fabricating the news.”