PHNOM PENH —
The foreign director of an environmental group that has campaigned hard against the construction of a Chinese dam in western Cambodia is facing expulsion from the country.
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, director of Mother Nature, told VOA Khmer in an interview that the Ministry of Interior has confiscated his passport and is refusing to issue a visa renewal.
“It’s exactly the result of my activities regarding the Areng area,” he said, referring to the valley where he has campaigned against the dam, in Koh Kong province, and its harmful ecological impacts.
In a joint statement Tuesday, some 30 rights groups condemned the potential deportation.
The proposed dam would flood 10,000 hectares, destroying a “unique ecosystem” and many homes of people living there, the groups said. “Mother Nature has argued that one of the reasons behind the authorities’ push for the dam project is to pave the way for extensive logging of the forest,” they said.
Gonzalez-Davidson has raised issues about the dam, its impacts and the potential for illegal logging and corruption, leading to “tensions” between him and the government, they said.
“The government’s decision to deny Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson a visa renewal is a perfect example of the government’s sustained attempt to quash grassroots advocacy, silence dissent, and ensure an environment where the government can operate with immunity from independent criticism,” Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said in the statement.
Gonzalez-Davidson has lived in Cambodia for 12 years and speaks Khmer. He said he will not leave willingly and considers himself a Cambodian, even though he has not been able to afford the $50,000 it would cost for official citizenship.