Letter from the Women’s Caucus and other civil society organizations and network participants of the ASEAN People’s Forum/ASEAN Civil Society Conference 2012 to the Government of Cambodia demanding justice for the communities within Phnom Penh that have lost their land and homes. It has also been signed and endorsed by other women’s and civil society organizations:
We write regarding the horrendous situation of communities in Boeung Kok Lake and Borei Keila, within Phnom Penh’s bustling districts. We urge your government to justly and effectively address the issues surrounding the eviction of these communities from their land and homes, the lost opportunities for better life, the violation of their human rights and the destruction of a natural environment.
A team from the Women’s Caucus and other civil society organizations and networks visited these communities as participants of the civil society-led ASEAN People’s Forum/ ASEAN Civil Society Conference 2012. We went there to express our solidarity with the communities who have been unjustly denied of their homes and even a teeming natural environment. Their basic rights to adequate living standards and a life free of violence as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and many other international laws, have been violated.
In Boeung Kok Lake, we were shocked at what we saw: A natural lake that has been filled up with earth and flattened out. As most of us came from countries that are suffering from and also learning the lessons of unsound environmental practices, it baffled us how a lake that used to be a water reservoir and a fishing village within the city can have such a fate.
But what shocked us even more is the sheer violence the communities’ just resistance was dealt with. The communities that have been stewards of Boeung Kok Lake continue to endure such violence. Despite the fear that constantly surrounds them, they welcomed us in what was left of their village and shared their stories with us. They pointed out where their homes used to stand. The women showed us the photograph of how they resisted the violent advances of agents of the Shukaku company and the municipality. Some even bear crimson scars on their faces.
We were equally disheartened with the situation in Borei Keila. There, we were also welcomed by women and children, who lost their homes through violent demolition. Some of them saw their husbands beaten and imprisoned. Others were themselves arrested by the police and taken to prison. They suffered violence for merely protecting their property, where they have been living for decades. They were not properly notified. They never had the chance to discuss their options, including a relocation process and site that would minimize the impact of displacement in their lives as working people, schooling children, clean water, health and nutrition for their babies, elderly and so forth. They were not compensated.
Today, those who have remained squeeze themselves with several other families at the staircase landings of the surrounding buildings and market. Many only manage to rest when the vendors have already left, using the makeshift stall as their bedroom. They live in unsanitary conditions, with the lack of access to water and adequate toilets. Garbage has been piling up in many parts of the leveled ground. We were told that as they continue to hold on, they felt that they have lost the respect of the surrounding communities. With lack of privacy and services as basic as clean running water, the people, particularly young women and children are becoming even more vulnerable to the elements, diseases and even violence.
As part of the bigger community of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), we condemn these forms of atrocities which have been inflicted on communities, especially women and the environment. Our hearts go out to them especially for the women who have been leading the fight for justice while struggling to keep things as normal as possible for their families. As representatives of your government, we urge you to look after the interest of these people in your country. We urge you to ensure that the rights of the people are not sacrificed in the name of “development.” In particular:
- Immediately administer justice to the unlawful acts which the people have suffered with their eviction of their homes and the destruction of their surrounding natural environment;
- Ensure the right of the people to peaceful assembly as they assert their right to land, jobs, homes, justice and human rights;
- Engage the people in a fair and transparent process to discuss adequate compensation;
- Return the lands and homes to the people, including the basic services;
- Provide the people just options for relocation, ensuring that the people will have easy access to employment and income-generating activities and basic infrastructure and services such as schools and hospitals, among others;
- Provide decent and temporary shelters with basic services for the meantime;
- Provide free health care and services for the people, especially women, children, and elderly;
- Provide free education/school for their children;
- Address the damage to the Boueng Kok Lake and rehabilitate it; and
- Ensure that any development projects adhere to international standards and fulfill the human rights of the people.
The Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN
Council of Women – Brunei Darussalam (Brunei)
Burma Partnership (Burma/Thailand)
Burmese Women’s Union
Kachin Women’s Association (Burma/Thailand)
Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organization Center (Burma/Thailand)
Women’s League of Burma (Burma/Thailand)
Ardhanary Institute (Indonesia)
Himpunan Serikat Perempuan (Indonesia)
Human Rights Working Group (Indonesia)
Indonesian Positive Women’s Network (Indonesia)
KePPak Perempuan (Indonesia)
LBH-APIK-NTB (Legal Aid Association – West Nusa Tenggara) (Indonesia)
Solidaritas Perempuan (Indonesia)
Perak Women For Women Society (PWW) (Malaysia)
Sisters in Islam (Malaysia)
Women’s Aid Organization (Malaysia)
Migrante International (Philippines)
Philwomen on ASEAN (Philippines)
Women’s Legal Human Rights Bureau (Philippines)
People Like Us (Singapore)
Project X (Singapore)
Think Centre (Singapore)
Network for Empowerment of Women (Vietnam)
Research Center for Gender and Development (Vietnam)
Foundation for Women (Thailand)
Peoples’ Empowerment Foundation (Thailand)
Alola Foundation (Timor Leste)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
International Women’s Rights Action Watch – Asia Pacific
Pacific Justice and Reconciliation
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C) (Malaysia)
Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
Isis International (Manila)