Authorities Must Drop Charges against Boeung Kak Residents and Seek Fair Resolution of their Dispute with Shukaku Inc.
Phnom Penh, 23 May 2012 — The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) condemns the arrest of 13 female residents of the Boeung Kak community yesterday as they were peacefully protesting against the destruction of their homes and attempting to rebuild them. This latest development illustrates the fact that Cambodian authorities deliberately let the situation deteriorate at Boeung Kak Lake. As the 13 women are sent to court, ADHOC calls on relevant authorities to drop any charges against them and seek fair resolution of this long-running dispute.
On 22 May, at about 8:00am, 18 families whose homes had been destroyed by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc. in 2010 gathered at the South-West corner of the Boeung Kak community to help rebuild one family’s house. As they set out to use lumber, police officers moved in to confiscate construction tools and materials. The families protested until 11:00am, when the police moved in again and arrested the community’s leaders for allegedly insulting law enforcement officials and inciting other protesters. They were sent to Phnom Penh’s Police Commission. According to the most recent information received, they have now been sent to the Prosecutor’s office for charging.
The Boeung Kak residents who protested yesterday are part of a group that has been left out of a deal awarding land titles to some evicted families. They had sent a letter to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema prior to yesterday’s operation, informing him about their claims and intentions. The City Hall confirmed receipt of the letter.
Following yesterday’s arrests, ADHOC reminds Cambodian authorities that they are under obligation to protect the citizens’ internationally protected right to adequate housing. This entails a duty to engage in genuine, meaningful consultations with affected people prior to implementing projects; to explore feasible alternatives; and to provide evicted citizens with fair compensation. It also entails, as demanded by several United Nations bodies, a duty to develop clear guidelines for evictions and resettlement and to adopt a proper binding framework, which includes guarantees of due process and effective judicial remedies.
Secondly, Cambodian authorities must uphold citizens’ rights to free expression and free assembly, which include a right to peaceful protest. Once again, the exercise of these fundamental rights by victims of land conflicts has been met with violent repression—evidence that the human rights situation is deteriorating in Cambodia.
Finally, ADHOC condemns the use of criminal charges as a means to silence dissenting opinions. Those who speak out against land grabbing and illegal forced evictions increasingly face legal proceedings in reaction to their legitimate activities, such as human rights education, community empowerment and advocacy.
ADHOC therefore calls on judicial, municipal and national authorities to drop any charges against the 13 citizens who were arrested yesterday and to seek fair resolution of the land disputes related to the Boeung Kak Lake.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Chan Soveth, Deputy Head of Monitoring Section at ADHOC: 016 667 373
Mr. Nicolas Agostini, Technical Assistant: 078 405 024
Ms. Orla Kelly, Technical Assistant: 067 727 025