Cambodian and international rights advocates have condemned the harsh charges imposed on three 20-something environmental activists in the country earlier this week, the latest sign of the Cambodian government’s determination to stamp out the last traces of independent political advocacy.
On June 16, Sun Ratha, 26, Ly Chandaravuth, 22, and Seth Chhivlimeng, 25, were arrested in the capital Phnom Penh, reportedly for filming the flow of raw sewage in the Tonle Sap river. Another activist, 33-year-old Yim Leanghy, was arrested in Kandal province outside the capital.
Initially details about the arrests were unclear, but Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday formally charged Ratha and Chandaravuth with “conspiracy” and insulting the king, while Leanghy was charged only with “conspiracy.” (Judges did not make clear what the pair did to warrant the lese majeste charge.) Chhivlimeng was released without charge, but the other three face between five and 10 years in prison, in addition to fines of up to $2,500.
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