Activist Alex arrested
Mon, 23 February 2015
Outspoken environmental activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson and San Mala, a colleague at his NGO Mother Nature, have been arrested by Interior Ministry officers and taken in an unmarked car to the Department of Immigration, a rights group and witnesses have said.
Cheang Sophos, a senior investigator for local rights group Licadho, said that Gonzalez-Davidson was arrested at about 1:15pm at the Fish & Co restaurant in the riverside area of Phnom Penh.
The news of both arrests was confirmed by a spokesman for the Community Legal Education Centre and a witness at the scene.
Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier in the day warned the defiant activist to leave Cambodia voluntarily or be blacklisted from the country.
Gonzalez-Davidson - who is facing deportation after the government refused to renew his visa - has vowed to remain in the country despite the fact that his visa expired on Friday.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Monday, the premier also warned NGOs not to rally behind the cause of the embattled co-founder of Mother Nature, lest they face problems of their own.
"Regarding Alex [Gonzalez-Davidson], let the Ministry of Interior take measures. It's not just foreigners, it's also Khmers that will be sentenced and other NGOs shouldn't express much," Hun Sen said.
"We'll let him stay until his visa is invalid. So you should leave first then ask for a new visa, it doesn't matter. [You] don't need to make this situation get worse. If we deport you, it means [you're] on the blacklist, that's it".
Gonzalez-Davidson is legally entitled to stay for 37 days after his visa expiration provided he pays related fines, but he has vowed to remain in Cambodia indefinitely.
A staunch advocate on environmental causes, particularly that of the threatened Areng Valley, Gonzalez-Davidson has previously told the Post he is certain that if he leaves the country to obtain a new visa, the government will not let him back in.
His situation has attracted huge support on social media, where the fluent Khmer-speaking activist has become something of celebrity.
The answer to the question of "will the Royal Government of Cambodia gain anything from Alex's arrest?" is pretty obvious. The Government will receive anything but intense disgust from the general Khmer public and from the international community as well due to the simple fact it is showing a blatant double standard while, at the same time as its security forces are arresting Alex, it is allowing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of such illegal immigrants as the Vietnamese, Chinese, Thais, Malaysians, Pakistanis and others to live and work in Cambodia with no restriction whatsoever.
My question to the Royal Government of Cambodia is this:
WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT NOT ALSO ISSUING ARREST WARRANTS TO THOSE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS WHO ARE CURRENTLY LIVING AND WORKING IN CAMBODIA? HOW MANY JOBS ARE THEY TAKING AWAY FROM OUR KHMER YOUTHS? AND HOW MUCH FOOD ARE THEY EATING AWAY WHILE MILLIONS OF CAMBODIANS ARE STILL HUNGRY?
Sydney, 23rd February 2015.