Land Greed Causes Two Innocent Deaths With More Expected

We mourn more deaths.

The version of the government of the killing: the government forces that were armed went after “community leaders” who are keeping the villagers under their control and have created a state within a state”.

This justification of carte blanche killing of villagers who are standing up against economic concessions must be condemned. There is no justification for government forces to open fire at civilians.

The steps to take:

1/ suspension of international aid till economic land concessions are reviewed;

2/ stop targeting community leaders;

3/ put an end to the use of arms to deal with land conflicts.

The savage killings of village are now legally and officially justified if we allow the government to go after dissidents and community leaders.

Sam Rainsy Party MP, Long Ry has long worked in the area to try to bring local authorities to have dialogue with the villagers. He has been successful in diverting violence and intimidation caused by the armed forces and local authorities. At various public fora conducted by local human rights organizations, affected villagers continue to raise their concerns and need for land.

The UN sponsored program on good governance and decentralization is only successful if governors, and elected commune chiefs are empowered to make their own decisions at their level and not having to yield to the power of the prime minister who is the sole authority that signs off Cambodia to companies.

The Kratie tragedy will not be the last if the core issue of accountability of the prime minister is not put on the table.

The aid community must review its own policies and strategies on Cambodia.

The expected visit of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in July is the key moment to test the US State Department stance for human rights. Land should be on ASEAN agenda.

Hoping that the US will take that lead.

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Photo- Radio Free Asia

CCHR PRESS RELEASE Phnom Penh, 16 May 2012

Land Greed Causes Two Innocent Deaths With More Expected

A 14-year-old girl, Los Chantha, was shot dead at around 9am today 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 Kastin LLC. This is at least the fifth 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 in a 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 the courts, 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 be dying at Borei Keila is heart-breaking and appalling. We have seen two needless deaths today. How many more innocent Cambodians will die before the Government wakes up and prevents an even bigger crisis? The impression is that either it is losing control of the country, or that the cancellation of land concessions is just for show. It is high time that it honored its obligations and defended its citizens from the sinister shadow of greed that is swallowing the country. It could start by launching a full and frank investigation into these deaths.

For more information, please contact Ou Virak via telephone at +855 (0) 12 40 40 51 or e-mail at ouvirak@cchrcambodia.org.

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