Cambodian Civil Society Strikes Back: Video Advocacy

My last post looked at how Cambodia’s authoritarian regime has sought to silence dissenting voices. This one looks at what one group of activists have done to make their voices heard despite the political crackdown.

When Cambodian authorities began closing down the public space with threats, surveillance, and harassment, harassment last year they also muzzled many digitally connected activists.

But some of the scrappiest activist groups became even more active. One of them stands out for their use of new media and particularly video advocacy.

នៅក្នុងវីដេអូមួយនេះយេីងនឹងលាតត្រដាងថា ខ្សាច់ដែលនាំចេញទៅប្រទេសតៃវាន់បានបាត់ស្ទេីរតែទាំងស្រុងហេីយក៏មិនខុសពីករណីដែលបាត់ខ្សាច់ជាង៧០០លានដុល្លាកាលពីមុនផងដែរ។ តេីមន្រ្តីពុករលួយដែលពាក់ព័ន្ធរឿងនេះគួរតែចាត់ទុកថាជាជនក្បត់ជាតិដែរឬទេ? សូមបងប្អូនជួយពិចារណា។In this latest video, we are exposing the fact that most of the sand exports to Taiwan have gone ‘missing’ from government records. This is not unlike the issue of 700 million dollars’ worth of sand that also went ‘missing’ a few months back. Can those corrupt officials involved in this scam be considered traitors? Watch and decide by yourself.

Publicerat av Mother Nature Cambodia Måndag 11 september 2017


Despite serving jail sentences, youth activists from Mother Nature Cambodia have set the standard in the country for using video and Facebook to expose environmental crimes and large-scale corruption.

Puppets replace jailed activists

When two of their members were jailed last year the group temporarily changed tactics, and started using puppets to criticize government corruption as well as taking a satirical swipe at the crackdown.


ព្រៃកោងកាងមានសារៈសំខាន់បំផុតនិងត្រូវបានការពារដោយច្បាប់។ បុគ្គលណាដែលចាក់បំពេញលុបព្រៃកោងកាងដើម្បីយកធ្វើជាអាជីវកម្ម ប្រឈមនឹងជាប់ពន្ធនាគាររហូតដល់១០ឆ្នាំ។ ករណីខាងលើកំពុងតែកើតឡើងដោយចំហរនៅក្នុងដែនជម្រកសត្វព្រៃ ពាមក្រសោប នាខេត្ដកោះកុង ដែលជាព្រៃកោងកាងធំជាងគេនៅកម្ពុជា។ ប្រសិនបើបងប្អូនជនរួមជាតិចង់ដឹងថា ឧកញ្ញ៉ាមួយណានៅពីក្រោយរឿងដ៏ខុសច្បាប់នេះ សូមទស្សនាវីដេអូ ដែលបង្ហាញជូនដោយសកម្មជនថ្មីគឺ អាសីហា៕Cambodia’s precious mangrove forests are protected by law, and individuals who illegally fill them in to claim the land for themselves face lengthy jail sentences of up to 10 years. And this is exactly what is happening inside the Peam Krosaob Wildlife Sanctuary, in Koh Kong, home to Cambodia’s largest mangrove forest.Watch our latest video, presented by our new activist Aseiha, to find out which well-connected tycoon is behind this crime against our country’s nature.

Publicerat av Mother Nature Cambodia Lördag 10 mars 2018


Cambodia does not really have a tradition of comic satire using puppets and this showed in the much lower number of Facebook shares compared to other posts.

In recent months the group has returned to hard-hitting videos and even increased their range of issues with activists on the ground highlighting the impact of environmental crimes, land grabbing by state-backed Chinese companies, and politically-controlled court cases on vulnerable communities.

3 Koh Kong families embattled against Chinese company UDG

នៅកម្ពុជាការប្រេីប្រាស់ប្រព័ន្ធតុលាការដេីម្បីប្លន់យកដីប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ ជាវិធីសាស្រ្តដែលអ្នកមានអំណាចនិយមប្រើជាច្រើនឆ្នាំមកហើយ។ នេះជាករណីមួយក្នុងខេត្តកោះកុងដែលគ្រួសារលោកពូ អ៊ុក សាវ៉ន ត្រូវបានក្រុមហ៊ុនវិនិយោគចិនប្តឹង ហេីយដីនិងផ្ទះពួកគាត់ជាមួយនឹងគ្រួសារ ២ ផ្សេងទៀតត្រូវបានក្រុមហ៊ុនព័ទ្ធរបងជំវិញ។ ចង់ដឹងថាក្រុមហ៊ុននោះមានឈ្មោះអ្វី ហេីយអ្នកណាដែលអាចនឹងនៅពីក្រោយក្រុមហ៊ុននេះ សូមទស្សនាវីដេអូរបស់ កញ្ញា លីម គីមស័រ ដូចតទៅ!The use of the judiciary to steal people’s lands has been a popular tactic in Cambodia for many years. In today’s video, we present the case of Ouk Savorn from Koh Kong, whose family has been summoned to court after a complaint from a Chinese company. His and two other families have seen their homes and farmland surrounded by a fence built by the same company. To find out the name of the company and the people behind it, do watch Lim Kimsor’s latest video.

Publicerat av Mother Nature Cambodia Lördag 8 september 2018


What really stands out in these posts, apart from the fact that the videos are generally simple but still slick, is a large number of shares— often between 40,000 and 100,000 — far above what other groups or NGOs in the country can muster.

One reason for this could be the very effective targeting of youth and other sympathetic audiences on Facebook. The platform, despite its drawbacks, does not incur data charges in Cambodia and has become of the main sources of news and information for smartphone owners.

More new media know-how needed

The closure of investigative media outlets such as Radio Free Asia and the Cambodia Daily last year has highlighted the lack of advanced digital media expertise among most Cambodian activists. Mother Nature is one of the few exceptions.

This lack of technical know-how would seem to suggest that they were any large pro-democracy movement to emerge in the coming years, it would be difficult to harness social media in the same way as during the Arab Spring. In 2011, Middle Eastern countries already had activists with far greater technical expertise than their Cambodian counterparts as well as the support of a tech-savvy diaspora(see Tufekci 2017).

Nonetheless, given the dangers of even sharing critical social media posts in Cambodia and the strong online support enjoyed by Mother Nature, there is also the potential to mobilize people offline. This social media support cannot be readily discounted as “Slactivism” (see Poell & Van Dijck 2018).

And as Sean Aday and Henry Farrel et al. write in Bullets and Blogs: New Media in Contentious Politics, dictatorial regimes are more resilient and new media is far less powerful than popular culture would lead us to believe (2010). This is certainly borne out in Cambodia where the main opposition party successfully rallied supporters, making very effective use of Facebook, and mounted a credible challenge at the 2013 election. But last year the party was banned, its leader was jailed and its activists were prosecuted for protesting on social media.