CCHR PRESS RELEASE –Phnom Penh, 16 May 2012
Land Greed Causes Two Innocent Deaths With More Expected
A 14-year-old girl, Heng Chantha, was shot dead at around 8:30am yesterday in Broma village, Kampong Domrei commune, Chhlong district, Kratie province, and at least two other villagers arrested, during a violent forced land eviction. Witnesses report that hundreds of armed police and military police used rounds of live ammunition against 1,000 or so villagers to forcibly evict them from their property. The villagers were demonstrating against the loss of their farmland as a result of an economic land concession granted to a subsidiary of Russian-owned Casotim Co. Ltd. This is the eigth instance of authorities or law enforcement agencies shooting at civilians since November 2011 in cases relating to abuses of either land or labor rights.
On the same day as this murder, the land crisis claimed its second victim: a nine-month-old baby died of illness this morning, having suffered diarrhoea and fever since his family were forcibly evicted by local authorities from the now-infamous Borei Keila district in the capital, Phnom Penh, on 3 January 2012. The boy, Chan Samnang, fell ill as a direct result of wretched living conditions ina relocation site outside the city. According to a representative of the Borei Keila evictees – who have still not received any appropriate compensation or resettlement arrangements since being evicted to make way for a development by the infamous Phanimex company, owned by Suy Siphan – many more children and elderly people are falling ill as a result of the terrible conditions.
In line with domestic and international law, if concessions are to be granted, those affected should be consulted in advance and offered appropriate compensation, relocation facilities and redress mechanisms. The deadly combination of no rule of law and total impunity in Cambodia is driving villagers’ to resort to desperate measures to fight for their land and human rights. The authorities are responding with violence,in the hope that the problem will go away. Such disputes should be submitted to the jurisdiction of thecourts, so that a proper and long-lasting solution can be found.
CCHR President Ou Virak, responding to these tragedies, comments:
“It is all very well cancelling any future land concessions, but if existing ones are leading to violent and miserable deaths, either through the gross negligence or bungling brutality of the authorities, then such actions are clearly not enough. That an innocent 14-year-old girl should be murdered in this way, while not surprising given recent incidents, is profoundly shocking and shows that the land crisis is spiralling out of control. That children should bedying at Borei Keila is heart-breaking and appalling. We have seen two needless deaths today. How many more innocent Cambodians willdie before the Government wakes up and prevents an even bigger crisis? The impression is that either it islosing control of the country, or that the cancellation of land concessions isjust for show. It is high timethat it honored its obligations and defended its citizens from the sinistershadow of greed that is swallowing the country. It could start by launching a full and frank investigationinto these deaths. ”
For more information, please contact Ou Virak via telephone at +855 (0)12 40 40 51 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This press release is also attached in PDF (in English and Khmer).
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) is a non-aligned, independent, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect democracy and respect for human rights throughout Cambodia. For more information, please visit www.cchrcambodia.org.