Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has called for anti-dam campaigner Alex Gonzalez-Davidson to be allowed to remain in Cambodia after the Khmer-speaking Spanish national was told the authorities would not renew his visa last week.
Rainsy, the Cambodia National Rescue Party president, yesterday wrote a letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng calling on him to reverse his decision to deny the activist a visa.
“I and other Cambodian people do not think he has committed any crime requiring deportation,” Rainsy wrote.
“He has also expressed his love of Cambodia and its traditions; he speaks fluent Khmer, much better than many foreigners who are living in Cambodia.”
Gonzalez-Davidson, who has long campaigned against the planned construction of the Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam in Koh Kong province, would be the first foreign NGO worker to be prevented from entering Cambodia since Global Witness staff were denied visas in 2005.
Kheng ordered the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Department not to issue Gonzalez-Davidson with a new visa, the Post reported on Saturday.
The move followed a thinly veiled threat of deportation from ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun in December, three months after the founder of environmental group Mother Nature was briefly detained in Koh Kong for preventing security forces from using an access road leading to the Areng Valley.
Monks and youth activists yesterday penned a joint letter calling on the King to request the government to reverse its decision not to issue Gonzalez-Davidson a new visa when it expires on Friday.
Heng Samnang, Khmer Youth Empire spokesman, said the group would follow up the letter with a protest campaign.
“We have many strategies to prevent the authorities from expelling him from the country,” Samnang said.
Sok Veasna, director of the Department of Non-Immigrants and Technology at the Department of Immigration, declined to comment, saying he “only followed the order from the Ministry of Interior”.
The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said that the possible deportation would “undoubtedly cause concern among Cambodian NGOs that any foreign staff they employ could face similar punitive measures if they engage in work deemed undesirable”.