Environmental activist’s video blog highlights hopes for Cambodia’s future

Ly Chandaravuth, who returned from a month-long visit to the US, was set to go on trial this week.
By RFA Khmer
2024.05.29
Environmental activist’s video blog highlights hopes for Cambodia’s future Ly Chandaravuth in an undated video screenshot.
(RFA)

Whether he’s standing at the bottom of a forested mountain or at the edge of an open pit mine, Ly Chandaravuth has sought to bear witness to what’s being done to Cambodia’s environment.

“Currently, we are living in fear,” he said in a series of video posts that he made available to Radio Free Asia.

“For example we have a house but we are afraid of losing it,” he said, referring to Cambodia’s natural resources. “We have ore mining but we are still poor. Those who benefit from ore mining are foreigners, foreign companies or powerful people.”

Ly Chandaravuth, an activist with the environmental group Mother Nature, returned this week from a month-long visit to the United States, where he toured protected natural sites and met with Cambodian-Americans and others.

From Utah’s Mt. Timpanogo, he spoke of the beautiful scenery where tourists can take a relaxing drive or a quiet stroll. 

“We’ve heard people bragging about development but when we are traveling overseas, then we realize that we are like frogs living in a well,” he said. “We know very little about the outside world.”

On Wednesday, he was scheduled to stand trial on charges of plotting to topple Cambodia’s government

The 2021 arrest in the case stemmed from the filming of sewage draining into the Tonle Sap River in front of Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace. Three others were arrested in the case.

Ly Chandaravuth is one of dozens of Mother Nature activists who have been arrested in Cambodia, going back more than a decade. 

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Ly Chandaravuth in an undated video screenshot. (RFA)

The group has worked to expose development and construction projects that have uprooted communities and damaged Cambodia’s environment. Their work has sometimes angered Cambodia’s well-connected businessmen and has led to legal trouble.

He said he didn’t intend to become an activist – it’s something that he evolved into after seeing the country’s situation.

“I won’t apologize for what I have done for the benefit of the people in the past, but I want to tell them that what I have done wasn’t for personal revenge or hatred against any individuals,” he said. 

“Because what I want to see the most in Cambodia is people living with dignity, youth having a future and equal opportunity in society – just like in the U.S. or Europe.”

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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