The online “e-visa” granted last week to deported environmental activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson has been canceled, according to a letter obtained Saturday, with the Foreign Ministry citing a “technical error” in issuing it despite the activist’s presence on a blacklist.
The letter, which was sent from Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary of State Long Visalo to Interior Ministry immigration department head Sok Phal on Friday, said there was an “interruption” in the system that checks e-visa applicants against the government’s list of banned foreigners.
“Please, your excellency, help provide this information to immigration officials at all of Cambodia’s international checkpoints to stop Alejandro Gonzalez Davidson from entering Cambodia, because the e-visa was already canceled,” Mr. Visalo wrote.
Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson, whose Spanish passport was stamped “Not allowed to enter Cambodia” when he was deported in February last year due to his efforts to stop the planned Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam in Koh Kong province, is seeking to return to take part in his upcoming trial.
After his deportation, Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson was hit with conspiracy charges due to a separate campaign by his NGO, Mother Nature, against rampant sand dredging in Koh Kong. The activist has said he should be allowed to return so that he can defend himself in court.
Yet Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said on Sunday that the activist would not be allowed to return.
“We canceled the e-visa for Alex because he is involved with a lawsuit in Koh Kong province, and he is not allowed to enter Cambodia,” Mr. Sounry said.
“Alex applied for e-visa to enter Cambodia, and we had a technical error in issuing the e-visa,” he said.
Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson said he had never expected that the e-visa would be honored.
“Knowing how utterly dysfunctional the government is, I am not surprised that the e-visa was issued only to be revoked a few days later,” he said in an online message. “Secondly, this document is important, as it is further evidence that the criminal charges against me and the other three jailed activists are totally fabricated.”
“After all, if the court has a strong case proving our culpability, then why is the government not allowing me to attend my own trial?” he added.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the courts themselves have no control over the activist’s return.
“I have no comment on that. The Ministry of Justice and the courts do not have the authority to decide whether he can come back to the country. That is a matter for the Ministry of Interior—you should ask them about why he cannot come back,” Mr. Malin said. “If he comes back, he can face trial.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and General Phal, the head of the immigration department, could not be reached.