Families fear eviction in dispute with Try Pheap

30 Jul
Source: The Phnom Penh Post By May Titthara Thu, 30 July 2015

Twenty-three families in a village in Pursat province currently embroiled in a land dispute with a company owned by tycoon Try Pheap have claimed that authorities are putting pressure on locals in an attempt to quash the issue.

The families, from Sangkum Thmey village in Veal Veng district, trace their roots in the area to the Khmer Rouge era, when their relatives were moved and integrated there.

However, the Pheap-owned MDS Import Export Co has claims to more than 4,400 hectares in the area.

Resident Prak Sophal, 60, said she and her fellow residents fear that the authorities, who have called into question the people’s ownership and the authenticity of their certificates, will not allow them to return to their lands.

So far, seven families have provided “fact sheets” on their claims and have taken oaths in spiritual shrines to ensure their authenticity.

“We want our farmland at the old place,” she said, adding that she was frightened she might be relocated.

Phuong Sothear, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the authorities are simply trying to determine if the locals participating in the dispute really have a claim to the land.

Opposition to submit complaint over LANGO

30 Jul
Source: The Phnom Penh Post By Shaun Turton, 30 July 2015

The opposition is expected today to lodge a constitutional challenge to the controversial law on associations and non-governmental organisations (LANGO) in a last-ditch effort to stop the legislation before it’s signed by the King.

In a 15-page letter to Constitutional Council President Ek Sam Ol, signed by at least a dozen lawmakers and obtained yesterday, the Cambodia National Rescue Party argues that the LANGO, opposed by hundreds of NGOs, the UN, the EU and the United States, breaches several points of the Kingdom’s constitution.

Among the violations, says CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay, are restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression, protected by article 41, and the right to establish associations, stipulated in Article 42.

The law – which was sent to the council yesterday – also violates Article 31 concerning Cambodia’s recognition of the United Nations charter on human rights, Chhay said.

Several NGOs have asked the nine-member council, controlled by a ruling party majority, to stop the bill, which they see as a tool to curtail civil society’s rights. If the council finds the law violates the constitution it can request changes.

Although not optimistic the body, a “tool” of the ruling party, would amend or scrap the legislation, Chhay said the opposition’s challenge was designed to force a public response to, and further highlight, the concerns.

Chhay said the letter would also inform King Sihamoni of the law’s flaws before he is required to approve it.


ELCs Blamed for Rapid Deforestation

30 Jul
Source: Khmer Times by Pav Suy Thursday, 30 July 2015

Villagers look on as park rangers inspect intrusions by villagers into an economic land concession last year.Photo: Supplied

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) were singled out in a July 30 report from Washington DC-based NGO Forest Trends for playing a large role in the deforestation in Cambodia.
“Cambodia is losing forests at a rate of 804 square miles (2,082.35 square kilometers) per year, primarily because the government gives large land concessions to large-scale commercial agricultural companies – many of which operate illegally,” a report from the NGO said.
Due to the rampant problems the country faces due to ELCs, which include illegal logging, land grabbing and pollution from mines, Prime Minister Hun called for a moratorium on new concessions in 2012 and the seizure of those that were not being used, leaving a number of plots undeveloped.
Despite the moratorium, the report said that since 2004, the rate at which  ELCs were granted to companies for development has accelerated. In 2013, land commissioned for economic development totaled 2.6 million hectares, four times as much as in 2004, the report said.  According to the 2001 Land Law, ELCs allow their owners to clear land for industrial agricultural development.
Activities taking place on ELCs include factory building, farming, plantations, agricultural-product processing, and the growing of crops such as rubber, sugar, cassava, acacia wood, cashew and palm oil.
The rationale for ELCs is based on the fact that 80 percent of population is rural and 70 percent of them depend on agriculture for their main source of income. A large percentage of them are subsistence farmers.
However, Kerstin Canby, director of Forest Trends’ Forest Trade and Finance program, said companies were using ELCs for logging massive amounts of trees for luxury-wood wholesalers.
“The fact that permits for economic land concessions are being used as an unlawful vehicle to exhaust the remaining timber resources of the country at such a rapid rate represents a total system failure of the country’s forest protection laws,” Mr. Canby said.
Forest Trends also blames arbitrary enforcement of regulations for widespread deforestation in some of Southeast Asia’s most pristine and ecologically valuable forests and jungles.
Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture declined to comment, saying they had not yet read the report. ELCs have been the subject of numerous reports over the past several years.


Protest Leader Flees

30 Jul
Source: Khmer Times by Ven Rathavong Thursday, 30 July 2015

Last April, Ly Kimhong lead villagers to protest against a Kampot provincial group working to demarcate plots of land for retired soldiers. KT Photo: Ven Rathavong

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – After exposure in the press and a brush with military police, a protest leader has fled rural Kampot for Siem Reap province.
Last April, Ly Kimhong led squatters to disrupt land demarcation work by provincial officials seeking to settle retired soldiers and their families in a rural project known as a Social Land Concession, or SLC. Mr. Kimhong was suspected of selling this “social” land and then organizing the interlopers to resist expulsion. Khmer Times did several stories on this conflict in Techo Aphivat, central Kampot province, about 130 southwest of Phnom Penh. He had ignored appeals by the local police chief to stop organizing land invasions.
“Authorities banned them and told them not to grab land on the SLC, but they did not care and did not listen to authorities,” Commune Police Chief Mao Mardy said in an interview, referring to squatters organized by Mr. Kimhong.
But apparently, the spotlight shone so brightly on Mr. Kimhong’s activities that military police summoned him for questioning last month. He was summoned by Sem Soeun, deputy commander of Kampot provincial military police. But Mr. Kimhong never showed up. Only last month, he told Khmer Times that he did not fear a summons.
“If he did not do anything wrong, why does he need to run away and disappear like this,” Mr. Mardy, the local police chief, said yesterday. “I asked his neighbors where he is, but they said he went to Siem Reap.”
“I went to see his new house on the SLC, but construction was stopped,” he said. Kampot deputy governor Heng Vantha said in a telephone interview that provincial authorities will soon demarcate plots of land for the retired soldiers.
“We are waiting for the approval from the Kampot governor,” he said, saying he did not know that the major opponent to the project had left the area. “According to information that we got, this person grabbed land and sold it in Koh Kong province as well.” Khmer Times has not been able to contact Mr. Kimhong since he left Kampot.


Protests over NGO law across country

23 Jul
Source: The Phnom Penh Post By May Titthara Thu, 23 July 2015
Community members hold a banner during a protest against the controversial NGO law yesterday in Svay Rieng province. ADHOC

Community members hold a banner during a protest against the controversial NGO law yesterday in Svay Rieng province. ADHOC

Hundreds of people across the country protested yesterday against the draft NGO law, as it was announced that the controversial legislation will go before the Senate on Friday.

Members of community groups and NGOs gathered in 13 provinces to call for the draft Law on Associations and Non Governmental Organisations (LANGO) to be transferred back to the National Assembly where it was approved amid an opposition boycott earlier this month.

Demonstrators distributed leaflets, released balloons, held community forums, and organised marches to provincial lawmakers’ offices in last-ditch efforts to stop the bill passing.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said protesters wanted to “show their willingness not to support the [LANGO] even though it was passed by the National Assembly and show that they do not need such a law”.

“If the law is approved, [groups like] the Prey Lang Network and the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, and youths that once campaigned are no longer permitted to and will be fined,” he added.

In Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces, police blocked the roads as marchers approached.

The draft LANGO has long come under fire from critics who say the legislation, comprising nine chapters and 39 articles, gives the government sweeping powers to restrict civil society, freedom of association and freedom of expression.

Phuong Sothea, Pursat provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, who joined yesterday’s action, said the law would be used as a government tool to “stifle our voices”.

“We do not need the LANGO because the law restricts the freedom of people, unions, and communities to express themselves, which is contrary to the spirit of the constitutional law.”

Buth Kosal, who joined protests in Svay Rieng province yesterday, said he would “not vote for any lawmakers approving the law” in future elections.

He added that people in his community opposed the bill because they believed it would “not let us have freedom of expression when the authorities abuse people’s rights”.

But despite ongoing opposition to the LANGO, the Senate yesterday issued a notice, signed by its Secretary General Oum Sarith, stating that the draft will be reviewed by the Senate’s standing committee on Friday.

Eleven Sam Rainsy Party senators announced on Thursday that they will boycott the upcoming vote on the bill.

Cambodia jails 11 opposition activists for ‘insurrection’

21 Jul
21 July 2015,Asia

Supporters of the CNRP gathered outside the court before being escorted away by police

Cambodia has jailed several opposition activists on insurrection charges, their lawyers say.


The 11 members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were given jail terms of between seven and 20 years over clashes at a protest in Phnom Penh last year, defence lawyers said.

The clashes erupted during rallies against the closure of the capital’s designated protest site, Freedom Park.

A rights group called the proceedings a “show trial” to intimidate the CNRP.

Cambodia became a multi-party democracy in 1993, but opponents accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of running a violent and authoritarian system.

Hun Sen, who heads the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has led the country for the last 30 years.

The CPP won disputed general elections in 2013, taking 68 seats compared with 55 for the CNRP.

The CNRP initially boycotted its parliamentary seats, ending it last year following an agreement with the CPP.


In July 2014, protests erupted over a government decision to close Freedom Park, leading to violent clashes and tear gas and batons being deployed. Several people were injured.

Five Arrested Over Anti-NGO Law Leaflets

20 Jul

Source៖   Cambodiadaily.com   By Ben Sokhean | July 20, 2015

Authorities in Phnom Penh arrested and released five activists on Saturday for handing out leaflets urging residents to “Say No” to a pending NGO law that critics fear will be used to muzzle critics of the ruling CPP.

The bill was approved by the National Assembly’s CPP lawmakers a week ago amid a boycott by the minority CNRP and is awaiting a vote in the Senate, which the ruling party also controls.

Government security guards arrest a group of activists handing out leaflets against the pending NGO law in Phnom Penh on Saturday. (Licadho)

Government security guards arrest a group of activists handing out leaflets against the pending NGO law in Phnom Penh on Saturday. (Licadho)

At about 8 a.m. on Saturday, some 50 activists started marching southwest from the Night Market on Phnom Penh’s riverside, handing out the “Say No” leaflets at other markets they hit along the way.

By about 10 a.m., they reached O’Russei market near the Olympic Stadium, where market and district security guards arrested five women among them. They were taken to the commune police office before being transferred to the district police station for further questioning and released at about 5 p.m.

“We had to arrest them because they acted without permission,” City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said Sunday. “They did it on the street and in public places. In other countries, people offer support and congratulations when a new law is made. But here, they are against making laws.”

He added that the march “was affecting public order and causing traffic jams. It was also affecting the environment, because after people read it [the leaflet], they threw it away.”

Mr. Dimanche accused the five women, all well-known anti-eviction activists, of being “professional and all-purpose protesters.” He said they were released after signing contracts promising to stop handing out the leaflets.

Song Sreyleap, one of the arrested women, said they were asked by authorities where the leaflets had been printed but refused to tell them, and were accused of taking their marching orders from unnamed masters.

“I told them that no one ordered us to do this,” she said. “It is the will of the people to protest against a law that does not protect the interests of the people.”

Ms. Sreyleap said she signed the contract in order to secure her release, but would continue protesting against the NGO law.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said he had been monitoring the march and witnessed the arrests.

“Every day, we see schools, companies, clinics and restaurants handing out leaflets on the street, but we never see authorities stop or arrest them,” he said.

The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations would require all non-government groups in the country, save the smallest community organizations, to register with the state and file annual reports on their activities and finances.

The government says the country needs the law to combat money laundering and terrorism. Critics dismiss the argument as a red herring, and fear the government will use vague provisions on maintaining political neutrality and respecting national traditions to shut down groups that criticize the CPP.

The U.N., U.S. and European Union have all urged the CPP to reconsider the legislation.

Land rights protesters arrested

20 Jul

Despite Obstacles, CNRP Activists Reach Border

20 Jul

Source៖   Cambodiadaily.com By Alex Willemyns and Mech Dara | July 20, 2015

KOMPONG RO DISTRICT, Svay Rieng province – With about 2,500 people in tow, opposition lawmaker Real Camerin on Sunday returned to the paddies along this remote stretch of Cambodia’s eastern border, where he says Vietnamese civilians beat him last month as he led a trip to a disputed border marker.

Meeting at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park at 5 a.m., Mr. Camerin and the burgeoning group of mostly young supporters took part in a brief Buddhist ceremony before filing into dozens of waiting vans.

A row of Cambodian men armed with wooden clubs stand in front of Cambodian soldiers about a kilometer from the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province, where they confronted hundreds of activists who were led to the area by a group of opposition lawmakers Sunday. (Alex Willemyns/The Cambodia Daily)

A row of Cambodian men armed with wooden clubs stand in front of Cambodian soldiers about a kilometer from the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province, where they confronted hundreds of activists who were led to the area by a group of opposition lawmakers Sunday. (Alex Willemyns/The Cambodia Daily)

Poor logistics and monsoon rains slowed the group, which arrived in Svay Rieng province about noon and —moving at a crawl over narrow and potholed clay roads—in Kompong Ro district after 2 p.m.

Yet the long journey did not appear to phase the activists, who stepped out of the vans onto sodden village roads at a police roadblock in Kompong Ro. Pushing to the front of the crowd, Mr. Camerin called over the police commander to negotiate his group’s passage.

“If they listen to what we say, and we listen to what they say, everybody will be happy and healthy,” a grinning Mr. Camerin told his supporters.

With the commander acquiescing to the CNRP lawmaker, the march began to border post 203 and the fallow rice fields where the Vietnamese civilians, backed by Vietnamese soldiers, clashed with Mr. Camerin’s last delegation—one tenth the size—on June 28.

After walking across the paddies for 45 minutes, the group reached a narrow body of water—well inside Cambodian territory—where Mr. Camerin says he was beaten by the Vietnamese.

Cambodian soldiers and military police, both armed with rifles, were waiting for the activists. Together with a menacing row of plainclothes thugs holding wooden clubs, they sent a clear message that the group could not venture beyond the watercourse.

While the area is about a kilometer away from border post 203, Mr. Camerin last week agreed with provincial authorities that his group would stop there and send only 100 representatives onward to inspect the marker.

The row of Cambodian men with clubs—blocking the only feasible path around the water and backed by dozens of soldiers—jeered at the 100 people Mr. Camerin eventually chose.

From left: CNRP lawmakers Un Sam An, Real Camerin and Cheam Channy pose while standing on border post 203 on Sunday. (Alex Willemyns/The Cambodia Daily)

From left: CNRP lawmakers Un Sam An, Real Camerin and Cheam Channy pose while standing on border post 203 on Sunday. (Alex Willemyns/The Cambodia Daily)

Gesturing that they would not allow the group to pass, a brief scuffle broke out as the thugs converged on the group of opposition supporters, halting their march through the muck.

“They have batons, we do not,” a young organizer said, pleading for the group not to press on.

The scuffle was over quickly, as organizers linked arms to pull the group of 100 back to safety. Some asked why the now visibly angry men were doing Vietnam’s bidding by preventing their movement on Cambodian territory.

With organizers holding back the crowd of 2,500 from descending onto the small patch of land where the tension was mounting, a single police officer stepped between the two sides, apparently soothing the club-wielding men and soldiers.

Counting each of the people who passed, the police officer allowed the activists to cross the line and toward the border post.

After the activists sloshed through fields of paddy under cultivation, armed Vietnamese soldiers watched as they reached border post 203—dead in the center of a rice field.

Climbing onto the three-meter concrete marker, and accompanied by fellow CNRP lawmakers Um Sam An, Cheam Channy and Nuth Rumduol, Mr. Camerin told the crowd that the border post had been placed there improperly.

“Today is a historic day for Cambodia,” Mr. Camerin said to cheers.

“We can show that they have placed [this post] illegally, by only one side and through the barrel of a gun,” he said, referring to Vietnam. “We will use what we have seen today to compare with the real maps now in our hands.”

“This is a contested ‘white zone,’ but the Yuon can grow their rice here, while the Cambodian people cannot even walk on this land,” he said, using a term for Vietnamese people that is often considered derogatory.

“This post has come at least 1 km into our territory,” added Mr. Sam An during a brief speech, before calling on the group to head back.

With Kompong Ro’s clay roads in worse condition than earlier in the day, it was past 8 p.m. when the dozens of vans reached Svay Rieng City and headed back to Phnom Penh.


Senators eye boycott on LANGO

17 Jul

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