03/23/2020

Urgent Action: Cambodian Forest Defenders Under Threat (Cambodia: UA 31.20)


Cambodia’s Prey Lang rainforest – one of Southeast Asia’s most important ecosystems – is under threat. In recent weeks, Prey Lang’s defenders have been threatened, arrested, and attacked. The harassment of Prey Lang’s defenders is a threat not only to the rainforest and the Indigenous peoples who live there, but also the global struggle against climate change.

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Prime Minister Hun Sen
Office of the Prime Minister
Jok Dimitrov Boulevard Phnom Penh,
Cambodia
Fax: +855 23 360 666/+855 23 880 619
H.E. Mr. Chum Sounry
Royal Embassy of Cambodia
4530 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20011
Phone: 202 726 7742
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen,

I am writing to express my grave concern about the recent attacks on environmental human rights defenders working to protect the Prey Lang rainforest. It has been brought to my attention that in recent days and weeks, activists working to expose rampant illegal logging in the Prey Lang rainforest have faced a barrage of harassment, including arbitrary detention and physical attacks, by both state authorities and corporate actors.

On 13 March in Kratie Province, four prominent forest defenders were arrested and detained and one was beaten while investigating allegations of illegal logging. They reportedly remain under investigation as suspects. Just weeks earlier on 22 February, armed rangers deployed by the Ministry of Environment blocked members of the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) who were seeking to participate in PLCN’s annual tree blessing ceremony, and the event was arbitrarily shut down.

Ministry of Environment officials have claimed that PLCN is operating illegally because it has not registered under Cambodia’s widely criticized Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), contradicting multiple prior assurances from the Ministry of Interior that the LANGO does not apply to grassroots and community-based groups. The United Nations’ human rights office has previously stated that LANGO’s mandatory registration regime is inconsistent with Cambodia’s obligations to protect the right to freedom of association, enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution and international human rights law. Grassroots environmental human rights defenders such as PLCN have been at the frontline of the fight against illegal logging in Cambodia for 20 years. Illegal logging has devastated Cambodia’s rainforests and severely impacted Indigenous peoples’ spiritual beliefs and livelihoods.

I urge you to stop the harassment and intimidation of environmental human rights defenders in Cambodia and ensure they are supported and protected while conducting their vital work; ensure a thorough and impartial investigation into all credible allegations of assault, arbitrary detention, and illegal logging by agribusiness companies operating around Prey Lang; and ensure the repeal of the LANGO, or its review and amendment in order to bring it in line with international human rights law and standards.

Yours sincerely,

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