Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mother Nature turns to puppets to protect its activists



Mother Nature turns to puppets to protect its activists

NGO Mother Nature on Saturday released a video featuring a puppet. The video concerns the illegal filling of a mangrove area inside the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary in Koh Kong, allegedly by tycoon Chea Leanghong. Mother Nature
NGO Mother Nature on Saturday released a video featuring a puppet. The video concerns the illegal filling of a mangrove area inside the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary in Koh Kong, allegedly by tycoon Chea Leanghong. Mother Nature

Mother Nature turns to puppets to protect its activists

Environment NGO Mother Nature on Saturday debuted a new video about threatened mangroves in Koh Kong province featuring an unlikely spokesperson, or rather, spokes-puppet.

The video is about a plot of mangrove forest inside the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary that was illegally filled in with sand, allegedly by tycoon Chea Leanghong. But rather than feature actual Mother Nature activists, as the group’s past videos have, the video is narrated by a bespectacled, krama-wearing plush puppet – a move the organisation hopes will reduce the risk of its activists being arrested, as they have in the past.

As of Sunday evening, the video had been viewed some 24,000 times, and had nearly 700 shares.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a co-founder of Mother Nature, said using puppets in their videos serves several purposes.

“Using puppets is partially aimed at minimising chances of further state-sponsored jailings of our activists, and partially aimed at ridiculing the dictatorship, as they will not find it easy to justify the jailing of a puppet,” he said in a message, adding that Mother Nature was not abandoning its old formula of using real activists on camera, but it was not yet time to resume that strategy.

Hun Vannak, a Mother Nature activist who was released from the Koh Kong prison in mid-February after spending five months behind bars for documenting suspected illegal sand-bearing vessels, said activists no longer feel safe.

“Another reason why we decided to use the puppets is because we don’t trust the Cambodian law,” he said.

However, the puppets won’t fully eliminate the possibility of activists being detained.

Gonzalez-Davidson noted that “footage gathering and investigation from the ground will still need to take place so the possibility of future arrests of our activists can’t be dismissed”.

Him Yun, with the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, said there have been concerns among NGOs on the shrinking of freedom of expression, but wasn’t sure if any other NGOs had also adjusted the way they carry out their work.

“But they are still working for a better society,” he said. “It’s our duty – our role.”

Meanwhile, Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said the government should instead be encouraging activists as “they are part of society to protect natural resources.”

This version clarifies allegations in photo caption.

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic. Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there