Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mother Nature turns to puppets to protect its activists

Mother Nature turns to puppets to protect its activists

NGO Mother Nature on Saturday released a video featuring a puppet. The video concerns the illegal filling of a mangrove area inside the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary in Koh Kong, allegedly by tycoon Chea Leanghong. Mother Nature
NGO Mother Nature on Saturday released a video featuring a puppet. The video concerns the illegal filling of a mangrove area inside the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary in Koh Kong, allegedly by tycoon Chea Leanghong. Mother Nature

Mother Nature turns to puppets to protect its activists

Environment NGO Mother Nature on Saturday debuted a new video about threatened mangroves in Koh Kong province featuring an unlikely spokesperson, or rather, spokes-puppet.

The video is about a plot of mangrove forest inside the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary that was illegally filled in with sand, allegedly by tycoon Chea Leanghong. But rather than feature actual Mother Nature activists, as the group’s past videos have, the video is narrated by a bespectacled, krama-wearing plush puppet – a move the organisation hopes will reduce the risk of its activists being arrested, as they have in the past.

As of Sunday evening, the video had been viewed some 24,000 times, and had nearly 700 shares.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a co-founder of Mother Nature, said using puppets in their videos serves several purposes.

“Using puppets is partially aimed at minimising chances of further state-sponsored jailings of our activists, and partially aimed at ridiculing the dictatorship, as they will not find it easy to justify the jailing of a puppet,” he said in a message, adding that Mother Nature was not abandoning its old formula of using real activists on camera, but it was not yet time to resume that strategy.

Hun Vannak, a Mother Nature activist who was released from the Koh Kong prison in mid-February after spending five months behind bars for documenting suspected illegal sand-bearing vessels, said activists no longer feel safe.

“Another reason why we decided to use the puppets is because we don’t trust the Cambodian law,” he said.

However, the puppets won’t fully eliminate the possibility of activists being detained.

Gonzalez-Davidson noted that “footage gathering and investigation from the ground will still need to take place so the possibility of future arrests of our activists can’t be dismissed”.

Him Yun, with the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, said there have been concerns among NGOs on the shrinking of freedom of expression, but wasn’t sure if any other NGOs had also adjusted the way they carry out their work.

“But they are still working for a better society,” he said. “It’s our duty – our role.”

Meanwhile, Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said the government should instead be encouraging activists as “they are part of society to protect natural resources.”

This version clarifies allegations in photo caption.

MOST VIEWED

  • No more Africa travel ban but new rules for arrivals

    The Ministry of Health has decided to lift the ban on travellers from or who have travelled through 10 African countries and instead issued a set of standard operating procedures to manage passenger arrivals at Cambodia’s international airports. The 10 African countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho,

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • PM blasts Vietnam general over Covid claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 6 expressed dismay after Vietnamese general Hoang Xuan Chien, formerly in charge of Vietnam’s border defences, claimed that Cambodia was a source of Covid-19 transmissions to the country. Speaking at the opening ceremony for National Road 11 connecting Prey Veng