Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Areng Valley dam activist given marching orders




Areng Valley dam activist given marching orders

Spanish anti-dam activist Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson.
Spanish anti-dam activist Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson. Pha Lina

Areng Valley dam activist given marching orders

Interior Minister Sar Kheng has ordered immigration authorities not to renew the visa of Spanish environmental activist Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, which expires on February 20, senior immigration department officials said yesterday.

Gonzalez-Davidson, of Mother Nature, an NGO, has led a campaign against the controversial Stung Cheay Areng Dam project in Koh Kong province and has attracted a large following on Facebook for his activism.

The Khmer-speaking Spaniard attracted a thinly veiled threat of deportation from senior ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun in December, three months after he and other Mother Nature activists were briefly detained for blocking security forces and authorities on an access road to the Areng Valley.

Sok Veasna, the director of the department of non-immigrants and technology at the Interior Ministry’s general immigration department, which handles non-permanent visas for foreigners, confirmed the order yesterday.

“Our minister decided not to extend his visa, so we already made a call and would like to meet him … to let him know that his visa will be expired and he will need to leave Cambodia,” he said.

“Our ministry still has his passport, however. We request him to come and pick up his passport and leave Cambodia.”

Veasna said Gonzalez-Davidson would not be banned from returning to the Kingdom if he leaves voluntarily. But otherwise, he would be deported and barred from returning.

Sok Phal, the director-general of immigration, said that the decision was made after local authorities in Koh Kong lodged a complaint about Gonzalez Davidson’s activities.

When asked if he was being denied a visa because of his environmental activism, Phal replied, “Don’t ask me that. I can’t comment on it; I only do technical work.”

Koh Kong provincial governor Bun Leut said that he filed the complaint to the MoI that led to the decision.

“Alex made trouble with local authorities in Thma Bang district. He took the car of his NGO to block my deputy governor’s group who went to visit the villagers in the Areng area,” he said.

Gonzelez-Davidson said that there was “no doubt” in his mind that the decision to deny him visa renewal was related to his anti-dam activism.

He also rejected the governor’s interpretation of the September road-blocking incident.

“He says that we were blocking the road and we stopped the authorities from meeting the villagers. To anyone who has any understanding of the situation, that is absolutely ridiculous. The only time the authorities have visited the villagers in 15 years has been to cheat, threaten or scam them.”

He added that the Areng Valley campaign had been “extremely successful”.

“They will have to deport me. I will throw as many eggs as I can at their face,” he said, vowing not to leave the country before his visa expires.

Senior opposition lawmaker Son Chhay condemned the decision and said he would seek to question Sar Kheng in parliament about the exact reasons why the visa had been denied.

“Alex has done so much good for the country … what he is trying to do is not for his own benefit – he was trying to protect our environment,” he said.

“It’s not going to be easy for Sar Kheng.”

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,