Cambodia: Sentencing of Mr. Ven Vorn, environmental activist and indigenous community leader

Urgent Appeal

New information
KHM 003 / 1015 / OBS 084.2
Sentencing / Release /
Judicial harassment /
Arbitrary detention
March 10, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) about the sentencing of Mr. Ven Vorn, an Areng Valley environmental activist and a community leader for the indigenous Chong minority in Koh Kong Province.

According to the information received, on March 3, 2016, the Koh Kong Provincial Court found Mr. Ven Vorn guilty of “harvesting timber products and/or non-timber forest products without a permit” (Article 98 of the Forestry Law) and sentenced him to a one-year suspended prison sentence. Mr. Ven Vorn was released on the same day from Koh Kong Provincial Prison, where he had been detained since his arrest on October 7, 2015 (See background information).

The Observatory welcomes the release of Mr. Ven Vorn but strongly condemns his conviction and the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment to which he was subjected, which only aimed at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities.

The conviction of activists involved in high-profile cases and their release on suspended sentences has become an often-used tactic by the Cambodian authorities to criminalize legitimate activism. Accordingly, the Observatory calls on the Cambodian authorities to put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against all human rights defenders in Cambodia.

The Observatory recalls that Messrs. Sim Samnang, Tri Sovichea and San Mala, members of the organisation “Mother Nature” [1], have been arbitrarily detained since August 17, 2015 [2]. The Observatory calls on the Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the three and drop all charges against them.

Background information:

On September 2, 2015, 17 persons, including Mr. Ven Vorn, were arrested outside Koh Kong Provincial Court. They were picketing to demand the release of the three jailed activists, Messrs. Sim Samnang, Tri Sovichea, and San Mala, who had been involved in protests against a hydroelectric dam (see below). Mr. Ven Vorn was subsequently released.

On October 7, 2015, Mr. Ven Vorn was re-arrested and sent to Koh Kong Provincial Prison. The arrest followed the decision of Investigating Judge Mr. Min Makara, who had questioned Mr. Ven Vorn on the same morning and charged him with “harvesting timber products and/or non-timber forest products without a permit” (Article 98 of the Forestry Law) and “destruction of evidence” (Article 533 of the Criminal Code).

Both of the above-mentioned charges related to the construction by Mr. Vorn and a group of local activists of a small visitor centre and community meeting place for local activists involved in a campaign against the proposed construction of a hydropower dam in the Areng Valley. According to activists and environmental groups, the hydropower dam poses a threat to their land, livelihood, and the natural environment. For this project, Mr. Vorn and others had purchased approximately 10 cubic metres of wood from a vendor in 2014, which authorities claimed had been procured by the vendor through illegal logging.

On February 17, 2016, Mr. Ven Vorn appeared before the Koh Kong Provincial Court to hear charges of “harvesting timber products and/or non-timber forest products without a permit” (Article 98 of the ForestryLaw) and “destruction of evidence” (Article 533 of the Criminal Code). The court dropped the charge of “destruction of evidence” due to a lack of evidence. Mr. Ven Vorn faced up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to ten million Riel (about 2,250 Euros).

Mr. Ven Vorn had been previously questioned on April 3, 2015 at the Koh Kong Provincial Court in relation to the same alleged illegal logging incident before being released on the same day.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cambodia asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ven Vorn as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Sim Samnang, Tri Sovichea, and San Mala as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in the country so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its:

- Article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels",
- as well as Article 12.2, which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration";

v. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments signed or ratified by the Kingdom of Cambodia.


• Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister,41 Russian Federation Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: +855 23 360666 / 855 23 880624 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: /

• Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh,
Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 212708

• Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 240 Sothearos Blvd, Phnom
Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 364 119

• Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh,
Kingdom of Cambodia. Fax: + 855 23 216 144 / 855 23 216 141 Email:

• Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Fax: +855 23 882 065, Email: /

• Mr. Mak Sambath, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, Office of the
Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 12 81 37 81 / +855 23 21
11 62 or +855 23 88 10 45 (c/o Council of Ministers)

• Mr. Bun Hun, President of the Cambodian Bar Association, Building at the corner of
Street 1129 and 1930, Sangkat Phnom Penh Thmei, Khan Sen Sok, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Tel: +855 23 864 078. Fax: +855 23 864 076, Email:

• Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, PO Box 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74, Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

Geneva-Paris, March 10, 2016

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail:
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
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