This week, the world has been captivated by the fact that an elephant that lived alone in Pakistan for decades, and somehow earned the epithet of the world’s “loneliest” pachyderm, was shipped off to Cambodia to be greeted by the bygone popstar Cher. Because of this, I have been forcibly informed by international newspapers and celebrities on Twitter that this is a feel-good story; informed by Cambodian government officials that this shows how much they care about nature; and informed by commissioning editors that this is the story that matters most about Cambodia, rather than the ongoing trial of hundreds of political activists, the possible epidemic, rampant deforestation, or the fact that flooding caused by changes to the environment has killed dozens of people this year.
Nor, in fact, that several key environmentalists have been arrested in Cambodia in recent months, including Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, and Phoung Keorasmey of the environmental group Mother Nature Cambodia. As Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director, noted in September, “The Cambodian authorities’ latest wave of arrests of activists shows a highly disturbing disregard not only for freedom of expression and assembly, but for land rights and the environment.”
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