Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Breaking: Mother Nature stricken from registry

Breaking: Mother Nature stricken from registry

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Mother Nature co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, as he was being arrested in 2016.

Breaking: Mother Nature stricken from registry

The Interior Ministry today announced it had stricken critical environmental NGO Mother Nature from its registry, effective immediately, just days after the group called attention to major discrepancies in silica sand exports to Taiwan.

In a letter disclosing the move, the ministry said the NGO had requested the removal of its own accord in a letter from Mother Nature head Prum Thomacheat on August 23 requesting dissolution of the environmental group.

Deported Mother Nature co-founder Alejandro Davidson-Gonzalez said today that the request had been prompted by constant harassment of two other co-founders, Thomacheat and fellow monk Sok Chantra

Taiwanese trade figures show imports of silica sand dwarfing Cambodia’s recorded exports to the tune of some $30 million. The revelation followed a similar scandal involving exports to Singapore, which recorded some $700 million dollars more in imports than Cambodia recorded in exports, prompting suspicions of impropriety.

Additionally, the two Mother Nature activists who first pointed out the silica sand discrepancies – Dem Kundy and Hun Vannak – were arrested for filming suspected sand-bearing vessels in Koh Kong province, and have since been charged with incitement and making unauthorised recordings.

Today’s letter, signed by Interior Ministry Secretary of State Pol Lim, says that the ministry had decided to remove Mother Nature from the government’s list of NGOs, thereby invalidating any documents given to the group permitting its operations in Cambodia.

“The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior [Sar Kheng] decides to cancel the Mother Nature organisation … from the list of the non-governmental organisations of the Ministry of Interior,” the letter reads.

The NGO has been a thorn in the government’s side with its consistent reporting on sand dredging activities in the country’s southwest. Its outspoken activism also precipitated the deportation of Gonzalez-Davidson in 2015.

Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak today maintained the conservation group had requested the cancellation because “they do not have money”.

Sopheak also claimed that the group was faltering after the deportation of Gonzalez-Davidson and that some people, both within and outside the organisation, were using its name “wrongly from their goal”, though he did not divulge any details.

Gonzalez-Davidson, however, dismissed the claims that funding was behind the dissolution. Thomacheat and Chantra, he said, held a meeting in August and decided to dissolve the NGO following consistent harassment of the duo, which he claimed almost resulted in their arrest last year.

He added that the repeated harassment and arrest of the group’s activists – which he charaterised as “state-sponsored kidnappings” – showed the group would be “sitting ducks” if they continued as a registered NGO.

“So the best strategy is to not continue as a registered NGO but as a movement of concerned citizens,” he said. “All our members are volunteers and we don’t need much funding.”

He said nobody “in their right mind” would believe the ministry and Sopheak’s comments on the group’s lack of funding and support from donors.

“The end result [of this] will be better. And we will be able to focus on other campaigns as well,” he said, adding that “we will continue regardless of this letter”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Kingdom, UN discuss rights

    A year after Cambodia received 198 recommendations from UN member countries, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-Cambodia) met with the Cambodia Human Rights Committee (CHRC) to discuss following-up on the Kingdom’s third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and