Stay Away from Mother Nature, Environment Activists Warned

The ministry said on May 24 that Mother Nature, led by Spaniard Alejandro Gonzalez Davidson, was not registered and did not have the characteristics of a non-governmental organization. Photo: Mother Nature

PHNOM PENH – Mother Nature Cambodia activists have rejected an Environment Ministry warning that the organisation is illegal and that anyone getting involved will face legal action,

The ministry said on May 24 that Mother Nature, led by Spaniard Alejandro Gonzalez Davidson, was not registered and did not have the characteristics of a non-governmental organization.

Activist Phuon Keo Raksmey, a member of Mother Nature, said the ministry’s announcement had no basis and was another obstacle for young environmental activists, regardless of what the group had done to protect natural resources and the environment.

“I feel disappointed with the Ministry of Environment’s view of us,” she said.

“Regardless, we remain committed to protecting natural resources in the country by any activity that is in accordance with the Constitution and human rights and is not against the law.”

Raksmey said the group’s activities were rights-based, for which Cambodians should be encouraged. These included protecting nature and stopping the destruction of natural resources, forests and biodiversity on land and in water.

The group had helped to seek solutions and drawn attention to many problems such as the dam construction in Chay Areng in Koh Kong province, deforestation in Phnom Tamao in Takeo province, illegal sand mining, conceding lands to individuals with a history of deforestation, beach wall construction and polluted water flowing into the sea.

The group is also focusing on Koh Kong Krao island, asking the Environment Ministry to list it as a national tourism park based on its richness in biodiversity. 

The activist believes that these actions should be encouraged rather than hindered.

“The ministry should encourage us instead of issuing such announcement to demotivate the activists by accusing that we call ourselves ‘organization’ or ‘association’, which we are not,” she said.

“We are young activists and environmentalists group who love and try to protect our natural resources, which is the Mother Nature movement.

“It does not require us to register as an organization or an association to protect our nature, as we, Cambodians, already have the rights to protect it and the national interests.”

Raksmey thinks that the ministry and the group have similar perspectives, citing agreement on Koh Kong island. 

“If the Ministry of Environment, however, wants people to protect natural resources or wants more people to participate in the act to protect those biodiversities, then they should not have issued such an announcement — which has no basis — to demotivate the young activists who are actively fighting for the country’s nature unless the ministry thinks otherwise,” Raksmey said.

Raksmey considered the announcement as another obstacle to the group’s protection of nature in the future.

However, the degree to which this obstacle would hinder the work depended on their commitment. 

“Regardless of everything, we will still continue doing what we have been doing,” she said.

She said the reaction they had received reflected the effectiveness of the group’s work. The announcement had her doubting the ministry’s real purpose in protecting the environment and natural resources in Cambodia. 

However, the ministry announcement said, “The group did not register to be an association or organization with the government in accordance with the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations.

“In 2017, the president of the organization submitted an application to the Ministry of Interior for the organization dissolution, and the Ministry of Interior issued an announcement No. 4571 on Sep. 15, 2017, to officially dissolute the “Mother Nature Cambodia” organization from the non-governmental organization list.” 

The ministry said the group’s activities deviated from the national interests and were contrary to the regulations of the Civil Code, the Criminal Code and the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations.

“Therefore, any group of people who get involved with this group’s activities will face legal action.”

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