Authorities this afternoon arrested environmental activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson on Phnom Penh’s riverside, hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly called on the anti-dam campaigner to leave the country following the expiration of his visa on Friday.
“Right now, we expel him, with the prakas of the deputy prime minister,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said, referring to a government decree.
“We expel,” General Sopheak said. “Don’t say ‘arrest.’”
Gen. Sopheak confirmed Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson’s detention moments after photos appeared online of authorities taking the Spanish national into custody along the riverside.
Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of the NGO Mother Nature, has raised the ire of authorities over the past several months with his tireless activism against the proposed Stung Cheay Areng hydroelectric dam in Koh Kong province. The project would displace hundreds of ethnic minority families from their ancestral lands and flood the habitat of several threatened or endangered animal species.
The government says the activist’s visa was not renewed because of an illegal roadblock he and his NGO used to temporarily stop a government convoy that was headed to the proposed dam site in September. Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson and his supporters say the government wants him out of the way because he has succeeded in stalling the project, which has the backing of ruling party Senator Lao Meng Khin and the public support of the prime minister.
Because Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson refused repeated calls to leave Cambodia voluntarily, Gen. Sopheak said the activist would not be allowed to return.