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

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport

  • Koh Preus upgrades 70% complete

    Initial construction of a nearly $30 million tourism infrastructure project on Preah Sihanouk province’s Koh Preus Island is “about 70 per cent complete”, according to an official with the developer. Heng Thou, construction site manager of Angela Real Estate Co Ltd (ARE), told The Post that

  • Local media loses a giant, and The Post a great friend

    Cheang Sokha, a gifted and streetwise reporter who rose to the highest ranks of Cambodian media and was beloved for his sharp intelligence, world-class humour and endless generosity, died on Friday in his hometown of Phnom Penh. He was 42. His wife, Sok Sophorn, said he