Posts Tagged ‘Land Law’

Forced evictions in Cambodia: two women human rights defenders convicted

February 4, 2013

Ever since the monk Luon Sovath became the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2012, I have following events in Cambodia with more than usual interest. And it is clear that the struggle for land rights there is continuing.

Luon Sovath by Dovona

Luon Sovath by Dovona

Two Cambodian women human rights defenders were convicted on baseless charges in separate trials on 26/27 December 2012. Yorm Bopha was sentenced to three years in prison. Tim Sakmony from Borei Keila received a six-month sentence, partially suspended, and has been released.

Both women have been prominent in protesting against the forced eviction of their communities. Yorm Bopha was outspoken during the detention of 13 other women activists from Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake community, who were sentenced for up to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment in May 2012. Tim Sakmony is one of the representatives of 106 families now living in tents next to the demolished site of the Borei Keila community, also in Phnom Penh. The two women are believed to have been targeted because of their leading roles in peacefully advocating for the right to adequate housing for their communities.

Further information: http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA23/020/2012/en

In this context I want to draw attention to the film maker Chris Kelly and his colleagues. They have been filming in Cambodia for more than three and a half years, following the lives of three extraordinary individuals(including the Venerable Luon Sovath) caught up in the chaos and turmoil of Cambodia’s economic development. Now they are finished filming and starting the editing phase. They have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise funds towards the completion of the documentary.Please visit this link to see what they need to raise. If you cannot afford to donate, please help spread the word using your social media platforms, blogs, word of mouth or any other means that you can think of. http://www.blog.thecauseofprogress.com

Boeung Kak Lake women sentenced for peaceful protest in Cambodia

June 20, 2012

On 24 May I reported that the Buddhist monk Luon Savath, nominee of the 2012 MEA detained and threatened with defrocking, which would open the way to criminal prosecution. This has not happened yet but the group of 13 women whose protest he was supporting and covering with his video camera, were sentenced as reported by the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) on 19th June 2012 

Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake has been an area of ongoing land disputes which has resulted in more than 600 families receiving land grants and over 3,500 families being evicted, while other families have been unfairly excluded from receiving land titles. On the 22nd of May about eighty members of the community gathered peacefully at the sand filled lake to sit and sing land rights songs in support of eighteen displaced families. Before noon, it was reported that about two hundred Phnom Penh police and anti-riot police carrying shields and sticks surrounded some of the protesters and arrested thirteen women. Within forty-eight hours all the women received prison sentences, including a seventy two year-old grandmother, to thirty months of imprisonment under Articles 34 and 259 of the Land Law and Articles 504 of the Penal Code.

WHRD IC is particularly concerned that proceedings began only an hour after charges were filed and those proceedings lasted only three hours. Lawyers asked for a delay to allow the preparation of a defense, which is their right under Cambodian law. However not only was this refused, but the lawyers for the accused were also refused access to the files, state evidence, and were not permitted to call witnesses (some of whom were on standby outside the court). Furthermore, two community representatives, who were to act as witnesses for the defense, were arrested outside the court on the same charges; they have since been released on bail under the supervision of the court. Other witnesses, media and the public were not admitted to the courtroom to observe the proceedings. This irregular judicial process denied the women their right to a fair trial and was in clear violation of Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure.

The women have appealed their convictions to the Appeal Court and requested bail; the appeal court hearing is scheduled for 27 June. There has also been a lack of response to calls from the international community, including WHRD IC members, to the Prime Minister Hun Sen to vacate the convictions of the women.

The WHRD IC calls for the Cambodian authorities to:

·        Immediately vacate the convictions and unconditionally release the thirteen women and also drop the criminal charges of the two other community representatives now out on bail.
·        Uphold the right to a fair and just trial and the right of peaceful assembly for all its citizens under the Cambodian law and international standards, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Cambodia is a state party.
·        Grant land titles to the families who have been excluded and to provide adequate compensation to those who were evicted in full compliance with international human rights standards.
·        Fulfil their commitments under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities.

For more information including articles, photos and video please visit The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) website http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/ and the Free the 15! Blog http://freethe15.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/solidarity-action-5-ceremony-to-free-the-15/