Hi John and thanks for keeping us in mind. I am cc'in in others involved in the campaign.
Truth is, the exile (some call it deportation) was completely expected by me and the others at the NGO. We had been conducting a campaign which was, in many ways, too good (if there can be such a thing). We had elevated a place which was when we started the campaign not known at all to the very center of Cambodian politics and society. Areng Valley is now a word throughout Cambodia eponymous with: bravery of young Cambodian activists engaged in protecting nature, Cambodia's last major forest, the nation's pride... and many other positive things. The government (for use of a better word) could no longer ignore the massive wave we had created on social media and mainstream media. Even the pro-government newspapers and TVs were talking about the fight, which is unheard of in this country!!.
Eventually, the government had to do what has been doing for 20 years, show 'muscle'. Get Alex out and give a strong message to civil society that they are the ones in power. But on the positive side of things, Hun Sen (the Prime Minister) had no choice but to, the day after saying some pretty direct and strong stuff against 'Alex', declare the dam a no-go until this mandate is over and 'leave it for future generations to decide'.
The 'intelligence' we had gathered all indicated that it was, back in March 2014, a done deal and that construction was imminent. That we managed to elevate the anti dam campaign to the consciousnesses of all levels of society AND managed to physically stop the dam is nothing short of a miracle and we must all congratulate ourselves. The Cambodian youth and community leaders did play a really crucial role in the campaign but of course other players had equally important roles to play. This is a moment to be, albeit not for too long, proud of ourselves.
As for me, well I did take a very strong blow to my personal life (I lost my life and country, nothing less), but that was, as I just said, completely expected, a sacrifice I was ready and happy to make for the greater good. The level of support I received from Cambodians after my exile has somehow made the first weeks much easier to swallow.
Mother Nature's team fights on, and my work, which since mid-2014 had been mostly internet--based, continues unabated. Many new doors have now been open. The other MN activists, as well as numerous other green groups, are now, no doubt, stronger, wiser, more experienced, and already expanding the fight to other campaigns. Or, as one of them so wisely put it the other day: ready to make Mother Nature a nation-wide movement capable of stopping the ecological suicide this government is forcing upon us under the false pretext of 'development'.
I'd be more than happy to send a small proposal or concept note explaining how our positive vision can be translated into action and what can donors do to help us make our dream a successful reality. John has already knocked on the door of RAN and if any of you know of any other people who might be interested in helping us, do get them in touch with me.
4 nature, our life