Ban on Marching for the Environment

In Cambodia, even a call to protect the environment is perceived as a political threat. Forest activists and NGOs were banned from marching in Phnom Penh on the United Nations’ World Environment Day, June 5th. Photos: RFA/Khmer service

2014.06.06
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Forest and land activists, as well as NGOs, marked World Environment Day in Phnom Penh with light-hearted face paint.

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Activists called on the government to implement effective protection of the environment, but riot police prevented them from marching.

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Animal masks represent wildlife under threat.

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This lion mask pleads “stop destroying my habitat”.

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Anti-riot police tried to prevent the activists from delivering petitions to the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as to the embassies of China and Vietnam.

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Business investments from China and Vietnam are often the cause of environmental destruction. The above banner reads: “Together, we protect the environment.”

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Illegal logging is rampant in Cambodia, 50 percent of which is covered by forest. In spite of World Bank assistance, natural resource management remains very poor in the country.

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Economic growth has attracted people to cities which are ill-equipped to handle increased wastewater, domestic sewage and industrial effluent.

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The demonstrations appeal to public opinion with a call to protect wild animals rapidly disappearing along with their habitats.

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"There won't be any animals left if we continue to destroy the forest," one of the activists told RFA.

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Defense of the environment and the struggle for human rights are closely linked in Cambodia, where corruption prevents good governance.

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The Human Rights organization Licadho condemned police interference stating that "nothing justifies intimidating those taking part in public activities which promote the protection of natural resources."

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