Home News Cambodia Activists Call for ASEAN Leaders to Stop Land Grabs

Activists Call for ASEAN Leaders to Stop Land Grabs

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Download This week, leaders at the ASEAN summit in Cambodia signed a human rights declaration. The landmark agreement is aimed at protecting the region’s 600 million people.

But the Summit has been under heavy pressure from human rights activists from across South East Asia.

They are calling for ASEAN leaders to stop forced evictions and respect human rights.

Borin Noun joined the protest in Phnom Penh.

Around 4,000 people are holding a protest in Parliamentary Park, near the ASEAN Summit venue in Phnom Penh.

They include human rights activists from South East Asia and victims of forced eviction in Cambodia.

They display banners, one of which says “Make human rights and democracy real in ASEAN!”

Jeral Joseph is the executive director of Malaysian human rights NGO.

“I am from Malaysia with Dignity International. I think land grab is a very serious issue here. I think the Cambodian government must take responsibilities. ASEAN people should hope for freedom and fight for human rights.”

Vorn Pov leads the rally. He’s the coordinator of the ASEAN Grassroots People’s Assembly.

“We want ASEAN leaders to listen to the people’s voice, but the police stopped our protest at the ASEAN Summit. They should’ve allowed us to march to the Summit so that they can hear our petitions. Cambodia is not doing well as the police continues to abuse our rights.”

Last May, 13 female anti-land grab demonstrators were jailed. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened, helping to obtain the women’s release.

Now protestors hope the US President Barack Obama will do the same and ask the Cambodian Prime Minister to bring an end to forced evictions.

31-year old Tep Vanny is a land rights activist. She’s a resident of the Boeung Kak area where many residents have recently been evicted to make way for real estate developments.

She holds up a picture of President Obama above a large SOS sign.

“I’m calling for President Barack Obama to raise our land rights issue as the main subject at the Summit to try and find justice for us. I’ve struggled for a long time for our government to intervene, but we haven’t received any positive results. So I have to call on the President of America Obama to try and fight for our rights.”

President Obama and Prime Minister Hun Sen discussed the issue of land grabs, in what US officials described as a ‘tense’ meeting.

After the meeting, Hun Sen’s spokesman said that the PM told President Obama that widespread land grabs were “a thing of the past”.  

Cambodia is the current chair of ASEAN and local authorities have warned activists not to hold protests during the Summit.

The activists wanted to deliver petitions about land and human rights issues to ASEAN representatives and world leaders attending the Summit.

But they were blocked by riot police.

The police detained eight protesters who had painted SOS on rooftops ahead of President Obama’s visit.

A group of Khmer performers sing a song to mark the end of the ASEAN summit along with the regions’ first-ever Human Rights Declaration.

But human rights NGOs say the declaration is not up to international standards and fails to protect rights in the region... including the rights of land grab victims in Cambodia.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 25 November 2012 13:05 )  

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