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Satire to expose repression against (climate) activists


ACTION • Cartoons against state violence in Cambodia


Unite for Freedom is creating satirical content surrounding state violence and (climate) activism.

anti-dictatorship - journalism - Satire

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In the run-up to the controversial Cambodian elections in July 2023, Unite for Freedom is creating social media content that challenges state-run media and issues around state violence and activism.



Cambodia has been ruled by Hun Sen, the current Prime minister, since 1985. After seizing governmental power in 1997 and banning the main opposition party in 2017, Hun Sen’s rule is uncontested. He is known to violate human and environmental rights to benefit himself and a small elite, having abandoned the party’s anti-colonial and Marxist-Leninist roots. As the general elections near, it is likely that his government will not only maintain the status quo, but also become more violent. Examples of this include the recent jailing (for a second time) of one of the country’s most prominent trade union leaders, Chhim Sithor, as well as the attacks and threats targetting climate activists as the country is witnessing one of the world’s worst rates of deforestation.


Unite for Freedom is one of the few groups trying to highlight abuses in Cambodia and reaching a large and vast public. This is a dangerous activity that requires strict anonymity, but also needs a network in order to collect news from all over the country. Despite these difficulties, their satirical cartoons have gone viral and sparked discussion on social media, while their videos reached over 15 million views.


In the words of the collective: “we released this cartoon, depicting two HS: the one above angrily pointing at some Buddhist monks and young activists blessing a tree to try and stop it from being logged, and a second HS below, smiling with his thumbs up and calling the activities of the country’s most notorious logging tycoon try Pheap ‘development!’”

Against repression

Their project has the potential to play an important role in tackling state violence. Exposing state crimes is needed in any country that practices repression. For Unite for Freedom, Cambodia’s pro-democracy movement is lacking ideas, resources and humanpower. They fear that Hun Sen will continue to stay in power after the elections, and know that an actual liberation movement has to be build from within. Their aim is therefore for the platform to become a legitimate political force by organising mass protests in the streets and creating content on a regular basis that reaches millions of Cambodians.


To achieve this, Unite for Freedom plans to release content more structurally and recruit and train new content creators in a way that is secure. In addition, they wish to travel to parts of the country where state crimes are generally poorly covered. As such, they want to make it possible for others to dare to resist the violence and exploitation that is happening in their country.