Alex Gonzalez Davidson, the Spanish environmentalist who was expelled from the country earlier this year, says he hopes more and more people will become activists in the country.
Gonzalez Davidson was working to protect the remote Areng Valley, in Koh Kong province, from development, but the Cambodian government refused to renew his visa after his involvement in numerous protests.
He has been banned from returning. He told “Hello VOA” recently that other people will have to become advocates for the environment, because the government agencies tasked with protecting it have “failed.”
“Their work has failed,” he said. “Their strategy has failed, so they should change strategies to do their job effectively. If in the future they work from their heart, without corruption, we can work with them because we are all natural resource lovers.”
But he said more support from outside the government is needed.
“I hope that between 10 to 20 percent of young people who visit Areng will become activists in the future,” he said. “So we welcome them. But I hope that soon we can work together with the Forestry Administration to set up a system that can welcome more guests to visit the region, not to do trade on luxurious timbers.”
The Areng Valley, in Koh Kong’s Thmor Baing district, came to national and international attention after the government announced its intention to build a hydro-dam there. Those living in the valley, however, have rejected it and staged protests.
“I call on everyone, especially young people, to overcome fear, because what we are doing is 100 percent right,” Gonzalez Davidson said. “We are protecting our natural resources, which will benefit all the younger generation and humanity. Therefore, they must be more courage.”
Gonzalez Davidson said he has been working outside Cambodia now to continue the campaign to save the valley, but he would also like to one day return to Cambodia.
“I hope that soon I may have a way to go back to Cambodia,” he said. “Even though they stamped my passport with a banning seal from entering the country, I wish I could go back home. I call it home because I had lived in Cambodia for more than 10 years. I consider myself a Khmer.”