Expression and AssemblyArticle: 2012 in Review: Use of Force Against Peaceful Protests
February 13, 2013 As the frequency of land grabs has grown, so has the sense of desperation for Cambodians faced with eviction. The perpetrators of land grabs – from business leaders to police to hired hands who carry out actual evictions – operate with near complete impunity. Recourse to the notoriously corrupt judiciary is not an option. For the average Cambodian, the only avenue that offers the prospect of success is civil disobedience, namely public protest and individual action.
The government has become increasingly aggressive in attempting to shut down this avenue as well, despite the fact the vast majority of citizen protests documented by LICADHO during 2012 have been peaceful. Violence is often the government’s tactic of choice.
December 27, 2012 The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Yorm Bopha on a trumped up charge and sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment. The charges against her and three other defendants were purportedly in connection with the beating of a suspected thief, but the real case against her is crystal clear – she, and the rest of the Boeung Kak community land activists are thorns in the side of the authorities, and they need to be silenced.
December 19, 2012 From December 8th to December 17th, more than 42,000 Cambodians across the country celebrated "International Human Rights Day". Events were held to highlight land, labor, and human rights with the unifying slogan "We All Need Justice & Freedom!". The final event took place in Phnom Penh the morning of December 17th, when organizers & volunteers danced to a land-rights themed rendition of "Gangnam-style" in front of the National Assembly wearing t shirts which had been endorsed by over 11, 000 Cambodians. Participants also presented over 40,000 signatures calling for an end to evictions in Cambodia coordinated by Amnesty International volunteers living in France, Germany, New Zealand & South Korea.
December 13, 2012 The government has issued a new circular ordering the closure of all Internet cafes within a 500 meter radius of schools and educational institutions – an order that, if implemented, would amount to a near-complete ban on such businesses in central Phnom Penh.
The circular, issued by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on November 12, 2012, also provides for further restrictions not limited by this school buffer zone. All Internet cafes are also required to forbid playing “all kinds of games,” essentially equating such activity with viewing pornography or committing crimes
December 9, 2012 The climate for human rights defenders (HRDs) in Cambodia has soured dramatically since LICADHO's last HRD report in 2009, creating the country's worst human rights environment in more than a decade. Violence against activists is on the rise, key HRDs have been killed with impunity, and the courts have lost even the faintest semblance of impartiality.
The year 2012 has been particularly bad.
November 15, 2012 We, the undersigned civil society organizations, condemn the arrest today of eight residents from an airport-area community after they painted the letters “SOS” on their rooftops in an apparent plea to United States President Barack Obama, who arrives in Phnom Penh next week for the 21st ASEAN Summit and 7th East Asia Summit.
November 15, 2012 We, the undersigned civil society organizations, strongly urge the Cambodian authorities to immediately end the ongoing intimidation, threats and harassment of organizers, venue owners and participants involved in civil society events in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh ahead of the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the 7th East Asia Summit. We strongly urge the Cambodian authorities to respect the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly in accordance with their constitutional and international obligations, in particularly in view of rising concern that it will heighten its crackdown on these fundamental freedoms ahead of the two summits.
October 2, 2012 Venerable Loun Sovath was awarded the 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders on Oct. 2, becoming the first Cambodian ever to win the prestigious honor.
The award, known colloquially as the “Nobel Prize for human rights”, was created in 1993 to honor and protect individuals who demonstrate exceptional courage in defending and promoting human rights. Sovath is the first Buddhist monk and first Southeast Asian to win the award. He was on hand to receive the award during a special ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.
October 1, 2012 We, the undersigned civil society organizations, condemn the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s shocking conviction of independent radio station owner Mam Sonando today, and the draconian 20-year sentence that he received. At age 70, Sonando is likely to die in prison if he serves his full term.
Sonando, the owner of Beehive radio, was arrested on July 12 on charges that he masterminded a so-called “secessionist movement” in Kratie. Several co-defendants were charged with organizing the movement on the ground. They were all convicted as well, though two of the previously identified “ringleaders” had their sentences suspended, echoing the Prime Minister’s public statement that those who confess would be spared punishment.
September 6, 2012 In the past three days, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered the unjustified pre-trial detention of two female land rights advocates in unrelated cases. These two incidents are the latest in a long string of incidents in which the courts have been wielded as a weapon to silence victimized communities.
The two arrested activists have long been struggling to advocate on behalf of powerless residents involved in land disputes with some of Cambodia’s most well-connected and powerful business tycoons.
August 30, 2012 On July 15, 2012, independent Beehive Radio station owner and director Mam Sonando was arrested on suspicion of leading an "insurrectionary movement" in Kratie province. A trial is scheduled for Sept. 11. He faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted of all charges.
This paper is summarizes the case and concludes that the charges against Sonando are unjustified and an attempt to suppress free speech. In the continuing absence of credible evidence, Sonando should be released immediately, and the charges against him should be dropped unconditionally.
August 15, 2012 We, the undersigned civil society groups, deeply regret the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision to pursue politically-motivated charges against outspoken human rights worker Chan Soveth for legitimate actions related to his work.
July 16, 2012 The undersigned organizations are deeply disturbed by independent radio station director Mam Sonando's arrest on Sunday, July 15, 2012, and call for his immediate release. Mr. Sonando, who holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, is the owner of Beehive Radio, which is among the few independent radio stations in Cambodia. Sonando is also the founder and president of the Democrat Association.
July 11, 2012 Rong Panha of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) was beaten in front of Wat Botum after a group of 20 CATU workers had marched from Phnom Penh's Freedom Park to a public park nearby the Prime Minister's home to present a petition to his cabinet. The workers are employed by Tai Yang Enterprises, which supplies international clothing giants Levi Strauss, Gap and Old Navy, among others.
July 11, 2012 We, the undersigned organizations, condemn the authorities' vicious and unprovoked beating of a union activist today in Phnom Penh, which came after trade union workers peacefully presented a petition to the Prime Minister.