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‘I will come back,’ says deported activist

Supporters chant during a protest in front of the Cambodia National Immigration Department in Phnom Penh
Supporters chant during a protest in front of the Cambodia National Immigration Department in Phnom Penh on Monday evening after Alex Gonzalez-Davidson was detained earlier in the day. Vireak Mai

‘I will come back,’ says deported activist

Referring to Cambodia as “my country”, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a vocal environmental activist and Spanish national who was deported Monday, yesterday vowed to return and continue his struggle to save the Areng Valley.

“I am a Cambodian and I have been illegally exiled from my country for speaking the truth and defending our country’s natural resources,” the anti-dam activist told the Post in a Facebook message from an undisclosed location. “I will come back, that is for sure. The only thing I don’t know for sure is when.”

Gonzalez-Davidson, co-foun­der of NGO Mother Nature and a beloved figure among Cambodian environmentalists, was put on a plane to Spain via Bangkok on Monday night, after the government arrested him after first refusing to renew his visa.

While his spirits are low following his banishment, Gonzalez-Davidson said the struggle to stop a proposed Chinese-built dam in Koh Kong’s Areng Valley will continue.

“There is nothing stopping us from doing more videos and informing the Cambodian people that their ‘government’ is basically forcing our country to commit ecological suicide,” Gonzalez-Davidson said, referring to the planned Cheay Areng dam.

Social media reaction to the deportation has been sharp and abundant among his supporters, who shared reports of his arrest on Facebook thousands of times.

If Gonzalez-Davidson’s deportation was intended to end the debate on the Areng dam, it may have had the opposite effect, with numerous strongly worded comments calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Comments such as “Come on all Khmer people we must get up to stop stupid Hun Sen [from] deport[ing] Alex please,” and “[Hun Sen] should be ousted out of his position by force. Cambodia country don’t need this kind of leadership” appeared on Facebook, below a Post story of Gonzalez-Davidson’s detention on Monday.

Other commenters weighed in on Mother Nature’s Facebook page with messages ranging from sorrow at his departure, to calls for further action.

“Thank you ALEX we miss you already please don’t give up on Cambodia,” one posted.

Another, called on Cambodians to sign on to a petition lobbying the International Criminal Court to take action against Hun Sen.

“Stop Crying for Alex or Khmer homeless or our Motherland! Just sign the damn ICC petition, We need only 500, 000 signatures to freeze Hun Sen and his tycoon families!!!” the poster said.

The online outcry comes about six months after a working group drafting a cybercrime law met to consider how Cambodia could “correct immoral wording on the internet”.

While the government is monitoring comments on social media, there are no current plans to penalise anyone for making inflammatory statements against government figures, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday.

“We will not react to anything,” Siphan said, while adding that inciting actual crimes could result in legal action.

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