Posts Tagged ‘Loun Sovath’

Martin Ennals Award Jury expresses its concern about Loun Sovath, Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2012

November 22, 2014

On 24 November 2014 the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) published a letter expressing concern by all 10 NGOs on the Jury about the charges against its 2012 Laureate. Here is the text:

new MEA_logo with text The Martin Ennals Award Jury (Listed Below) is extremely concerned about the flawed and protracted judicial proceedings being used to threaten renowned human rights defender (HRD) Venerable Loun Sovath. He is scheduled to face trial on November 25, 2014. Venerable Sovath is internationally known as the “multimedia monk,” and his efforts to voice the human rights abuses suffered by land communities and HRDs in Cambodia have been recognized globally. The charges brought against Venerable Sovath are groundless and must be dropped immediately. 

Venerable Sovath was awarded the 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The award was created in 1993 to honor and protect individuals who demonstrate exceptional courage in defending and promoting human rights.

Despite international recognition Venerable Sovath has continually been targeted by religious and legal authorities in Cambodia. He has been subjected on numerous occasions to threats of imprisonment, verbal abuse, death threats, and defrocking, among others.

As part of a wave of arrests, trials, and convictions of social activists and peaceful demonstrators, this case is the renewal of an old case in which Venerable Sovath was charged with incitement to commit a felony [1] for allegedly inciting and leading demonstrations by victims of land conflicts against government authorities in Chi Kreng, Siem Reap, and Boeung Kak lake, Phnom Penh. The trial is now scheduled for November 25, 2014. If convicted, Venerable Sovath faces up to two years in prison and a fine of US$1,000, equivalent to over 4,000,000 Cambodian Riels.

….. The vagueness of the charges and lack of clarity surrounding the legal process raise significant concerns. The Martin Ennals Award Jury calls on the Government of Cambodia to ensure any legal processes are handled in accordance with the principles of the rule of law.

Martin Ennals Award Jury:

– Amnesty International,

– Human Rights Watch,

– Human Rights First,

– Int’l Federation for Human Rights (FIDH),

– World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT),

– Front Line Defenders,

– International Commission of Jurists,

– EWDE Germany,

– International Service for Human Rights,

– HURIDOCS.

[1] Cambodia Criminal Code, Article 495 (imposing criminal liability for “Incitement to commit a felony or to disturb social security…”).

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/cambodian-mea-laureate-2012-luon-sovath-charged-with-incitement/

 

Documentary The Rights of Others shows Human Rights Defenders in Cambodia against evictions

September 16, 2014

On 22 September 2014 will be shown the film “The Rights of Others” by Chris Kelly [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/chris-kelly/] on work done by human rights defenders in Cambodia, especially those who fight against forced evictions, a common feature of Cambodia’s ‘development model’ as demonstrated also by the work of  the monk Luon Sovath who became the Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Cambodia’s land dispute takes centre stage in future documentary “Cause of Progress”

January 2, 2013

The Cause of Progress” tells the story of the lives of three Cambodians caught up in the country’s chaotic and often violent economic progress, set against the backdrop of the shifting political, religious and familial landscapes of modern-day Cambodia. Shot over the course of three years, the film is a unique and intimate portrait of modern Cambodia. At times poignant and emotional, at others violent and chaotic, the film explores the impact of progress on modern society – from the corruption of the national religion, to the disintegration of the family, to the abusive power and kleptocracy of the ruling political elite.

What is happening in Cambodia is happening all over the developing world, from South America to Africa to Eastern Europe – land is being colonised by the developed world and the local elites, while the rightful owners are being displaced. This film addresses one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Each of the three personal narratives focuses on a different aspect of the story but forced evictions and land grabbing recur across all three. The Venerable Loun Sovath is a Human Rights Defender who uses video as part of his activist campaigning, all the while fighting against the corruption within his religious order. He is the 2012 Laureate of the MEA. Sopheap, facing eviction and waiting for a new home, is struggling to start a new business while she tries to cope with her slowly disintegrating family. And Srey Pov – at the front lines of a high profile forced eviction – comes face to face with a corrupt political elite and the sometimes difficult relationship between global institutions and the developing world.

This film will offer a unique insight into a country at a pivotal time in its development, finally shaking off the legacy of the past and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s future direction is uncertain.

Those who want to keep up to date on future developments of this project should sign up to the film’s blog, join its facebook group, and mailing list and follow on twitter @chriskellyfilm

Luon Sovath by Dovona

Luon Sovath by Dovona

Filmmaker Chris Kelly filming at Boeung Kak lake. Image © Nicolas Axelrod 2010.

Luon Sovath speaks out on Radio Free Asia

November 10, 2012

On 7 November the activist monk Luon Sovath, MEA Laureate of 2012, spoke to Radio Free Asia about his work.

As the interview is quite interesting I copied here in in full:

Fresh from receiving the “Nobel Prize for Human Rights,” Cambodia’s technology-savvy activist monk Loun Sovath has called on authorities in his country to end the use of violence in land eviction cases, vowing to continue his struggle to protect victims of land grabs. He also said he would not be cowed by government harassment and called on his fellow monks, often respected as figures of moral authority in Cambodia, to join in the struggle to defend villagers who have become victims of forced evictions. Loun Sovath was the first Southeast Asian to be presented with the 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders as he was selected for documenting the struggle of land rights activists and ordinary citizens evicted from their homes in his impoverished country. The monk collected the award—viewed by many as the Nobel Prize for Human Rights—in Geneva last month.

“The Buddha advised people to do good deeds both physically and mentally,” he told RFA’s Khmer service during an interview in Washington on Wednesday. “Respecting human rights is a good deed which will lead to peace and prosperity for this world and in the next. So for monks to become rights defenders is nothing against Buddhism, but can lead to enlightenment and peace.” “Monks play a vital role in society. I appeal to monks to rise up to follow in the Buddha’s footsteps,” he said. Loun Sovath  said the Cambodian people must also rise up to demand their rights, highlighting land disputes as the one of the biggest issues facing the public in the country.

“The authorities must stop using violence against innocent villagers who are the victims of land grabbing,” he said. Research by Cambodian rights group LICADHO shows that some 2.1 million hectares of land has been given to private companies in the form of land concessions over the last two decades. The massive transfer has led to countless forced evictions and affected over 400,000 people in the 12 provinces that LICADHO monitors since 2003 alone, the group said.

Sovath is currently touring the U.S., meeting with the Cambodian community and addressing various nongovernmental organizations on the human rights situation in his country. He began his nearly two-month visit last week in New York, traveled to Washington, and arrived in Chicago Thursday. Sovath said he was honored to receive the Martin Ennals Award.

“I was given the award because I have worked as a rights defender and a protector of social justice involved with land issues, forced evictions, and the protection of natural resources and wildlife,” he said. In June 2011, the New York-based Human Rights Watch awarded Loun Sovath with the Hellman/Hammett grant for his work supporting communities facing forced evictions and land-grabbing in Cambodia.

Luon Sovath by Dovana

Years of activism Sovath first became involved in human rights work in 2009, when members of his family were injured during a police shootout at unarmed villagers in a land eviction case. The monk’s brother and nephew were wounded in the standoff, which he documented in a video. He is known for his extensive use of video to inform the world about his confrontations with authorities, earning him the nickname “multimedia monk.” The monk is rarely seen without a mobile phone or tablet. He also uses songs and art to spread his non-violent message of defending human rights. Loun Sovath said he strove to protect human rights in the interest of his country. “I have a desire to help build Cambodia,” he said. In June, Loun Sovath was briefly detained by Cambodian authorities and accused of “causing instability” after he joined protests against the jailing of 13 women over a long-running forced land eviction case in the capital Phnom Penh. Municipal monk officials threatened to have him defrocked as a monk, but released him after he put his thumbprint on a statement assuring that he will not join future protests. Loun Sovath had been banned in April from entering pagodas in Phnom Penh after he participated in land protests.

Sovath, who has since participated in various protests, said he would not stop his activism even though he was concerned about his personal safety. “The authorities have tried to prevent me from doing good things and from helping the country and [the Buddhist] religion,” Sovath said. “I can’t accept this because I have done nothing wrong,” he said. “As long as human rights violations continue to exist in Cambodia, I will continue to do my work.”

Reported by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Copyright © 1998-2011 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.