Posts Tagged ‘Luon Sovath’

11 June: Premiere of “The Cause of Progress” on land rights defenders in Cambodia

June 3, 2016

After more than eight years in the making, the documentary ‘The Cause of Progress’ will have its world première at the Sheffield international documentary festival on 11 June 2016. Preliminary versions of this film by Chris Kelly were shown in closed circles (see:  https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/documentary-the-rights-of-others-shows-human-rights-defenders-in-cambodia-against-evictions/) but it has now been finalised. Read the rest of this entry »

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/

 

Cambodian MEA Laureate 2012 Luon Sovath charged with incitement

November 5, 2014

 
cambodia-luon-sovath-award-oct-2012.jpg

(Luon Sovath after receiving the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva on 2 October 2012; left myself.  AFP)
 On 4 November Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that two outspoken critics of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen are called to court this month on vague charges of “incitement to commit a crime,” but the defendants say they have done nothing illegal. It concerns the human rights defender and monk Luon Sovath (MEA Laureate 2012) and dissident Sourn Serey Ratha (based in the USA). They received summons dated 22 October (!) signed by Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpeseth accusing then of “incitement to commit crimes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and abroad” in 2011, under Penal Code article 495, but the summonses, which ordered the two men to appear in court together in the capital on 25 November, do not specify what crimes they had incited or how their cases were linked.

[Under the Penal Code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates “serious turmoil in society” through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication. Luon Sovath faces up to five years in prison if convicted, while Sourn Serey Ratha faces a total maximum punishment of 15 years.]

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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 »

Cambodian radio journalist Mam Sonando in appeal gets slightly better deal

March 11, 2013

800 people gathered for a day and a half in front of the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal to support Mam Sonando.

(800 people gathered in front of the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal to support Mam Sonando (c) Clothilde Le Coz)

Arrested on July 15th 2012, Beehive Radio journalist and director, Mam Sonando, was sentenced in the first instance to twenty years in prison in October 2012. He was charged with instigating villagers and peasants to protest against lands expropriation, in Kratie province. He was convicted and sentenced for “aggravating circumstances rebellion, unlawful interference in the performance of public functions, insurrection, inciting people to take arms against the state authority”. After spending already eight months in prison, his appeal started on 5 March 2013.

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

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.

Short summary of the Martin Ennals Award 2012 ceremony now available

October 4, 2012

For a lovely 8 mn summary of the 2012 Martin Ennals Award ceremony of 2 October please go the the website: Welcome to Martin Ennals Awards – MEA.

Venerable LUON SOVATH becomes MEA laureate 2012

October 2, 2012

 

 The international human rights movement announces the 2012 Martin Ennals Award winner, A Cambodian Monk working to prevent Forced Evictions

 The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), met in Geneva today and selected the Venerable LUON Sovath as the 2012 Martin Ennals Award winner. The Prize winner was announced at a ceremony hosted by the City of Geneva at Victoria Hall.

 The Venerable Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk from Siem Reap, Cambodia witnessed his family and fellow villagers being forcibly evicted from their homes in 2009.  Since then he has been a strong advocate against forced evictions, which remove families from their homes, often violently and little or no compensation. Despite threats to his person, of arrest and disrobing, the Venerable Sovath, a non-violent Buddhist monk, uses videos, poems and songs to defend the right to housing. His advocacy touches powerful economic interests. The threats against the Venerable Sovath are very real.

Venerable Sovath was selected from among three final Nominees. Also nominated was Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian Lawyer serving a 6 year prison sentence in Iran for her Human Rights work . She is known particularly for her work on behalf of women and children’s rights, especially juveniles facing execution. The third nominee is the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who report widely on human rights abuses in Bahrain. Many of their key staff are currently imprisoned for their work.

The New Chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former Swiss President and Foreign Minister said: “This year’s novel  format with three nominees made the Jury’s decision particularly difficult. As a Buddhist monk, Venerable Sovath has managed to raise wider attention to the issue of forced evictions in Cambodia”

 The main award of the human rights movement. The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide.  The Jury is composed of the following NGOs: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture, Front Line, International Commission of Jurists, German Diakonie, International Service for Human Rights and HURIDOCS.

 Previous laureates : Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (2011) Muhannad Al-Hassani, Syria, Emad Baghi, Iran; Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Uzbekistan; Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Burundi and Rajan Hoole-Kopalasingham Sritharan, Sri Lanka; Akbar Ganji, Iran and Arnold Tsunga, Zimbabwe; Aktham Naisse, Syria; Lida Yusupova, Russia; Alirio Uribe Muñoz, Colombia; Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad; Peace Brigades International; Immaculée Birhaheka, DR Congo; Natasha Kandic, Yugoslavia; Eyad El Sarraj, Palestine; Samuel Ruiz, Mexico; Clement Nwankwo, Nigeria; Asma Jahangir, Pakistan; Harry Wu, China.

 Patrons of the Martin Ennals Award: Asma Jahangir, Barbara Hendricks, José Ramos-Horta, Adama Dieng, Leandro Despouy, Louise Arbour, Robert Fulghum, Irene Khan, Theo van Boven and Werner Lottje†.

For further information visit www.martinennalsaward.org

EMBARGOED until 18:45 Central European (Geneva) Time 2 Oct 2012

 

Who is the laureate of the MEA 2012? – answer tonight at 18h45 in Geneva

October 2, 2012

 

This morning the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for human rights Defenders (MEA) came together in Geneva to decide who will ultimately be the Laureate of the MEA 2012. I was there and know the result but it stays under wraps until approximately 18h45 Geneva time when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will make the announcement during the ceremony which can be followed live on http://www.martinennalsaward.org as from 18h00.