Int’l bank critics at risk: Report

June 23, 2015

Hex put on Kep Chuktema

June 5, 2015
Source: Phnom Penh Post,By: Khouth Sophak Chakrya,Fri, 5 June 2015

Land activists from Boeung Kak lake community prepare for a cursing ceremony, targeting former Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema, in Phnom Penh yesterday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

About 30 former residents of the Boeung Kak Lake community yesterday gathered near the National Assembly to put a curse on former Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema over claims that he caused them to lose their lands.

During the event, people set up funeral banners and pictures showing the destruction of their former homes, as well as demolished houses from Borei Keila – another displaced community in the capital. Participants also stuck photos of Chuktema next to infamous war criminal Kaing Guek Eav, the Khmer Rouge-era operator of the Tuol Sleng detention centre populary known as “Duch”.

Sear Naret, 56, a representative of the displaced residents, said they wished to put a hex on Chuktema, now a member of parliament with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, so he would die a slow death for his role in filling the lake.

“We curse Kep Chuktema and other corrupt officials with death, caused by their ambition and the corruption they have committed,” he said. “The gods will punish them with hardship and destruction, especially Kep Chuktema; [they will] be fired from their current positions soon.”

Chum Ngarn, a representative of the Borei Keila community, said thousands of families in the capital lost their land due to the irresponsibility of the city’s leadership. “During [Kep Chuktema’s] time, poor community members were evicted, arrested, charged and sent to jail because of protests to protect their lands,” she said.

Afterward, participants gathered in front of the Assembly to ask for information about a petition they had filed to demand intervention. Lawmaker Lork Kheng called for patience.

Chuktema could not be reached yesterday.

Boeung Kak protesters freed but defiant

April 13, 2015

Members of the imprisoned Boeung Kak Lake community celebrate their release yesterday at a ceremony at Kem Sokha’s home. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Five months behind bars has done nothing to deter Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak activists from taking their demands to the streets.

Just one day after their release from the capital’s Prey Sar prison, the female activists – often at the helm of Phnom Penh demonstrations – vowed yesterday to continue protesting for “as long as land disputes and social injustices remain”.

“I will still advocate and peacefully protest to demand solutions and justice for all the victims in Cambodian society, even if I will be imprisoned or killed by the authorities,” Boeung Kak leader Tep Vanny told the Post from her home yesterday.

Vanny and six other Boeung Kak activists were arrested during a protest in November, and convicted a day later for violating the Traffic Law by using a wooden bed to block the capital’s Monivong Boulevard.

On the day of the women’s trial, another two Boeung Kak women were arrested, along with Phoung Sopheap, a land activist from Phnom Penh’s airport community, and Buddhist monk Soeun Hai.

The four, who had been protesting outside the courtroom, were also convicted at breakneck speed for “intentionally inciting violence against a public authority”.

Vanny yesterday expressed her gratitude at the group’s release, which was granted under King Norodom Sihamoni’s annual Khmer New Year royal pardon following negotiations between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

But, she said, they should never have been arrested in the first place.

Dismissing claims from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party that the women had “accepted their guilt,” Vanny said they had in fact been used by the party as pawns in a political power play.

“The ruling party arrested and accused us, the land activists, as a pretext to put pressure on the opposition to accept [conditions for] the reformed National Election Committee. But we are not political activists, we are just community land rights protesters,” she said.

Vanny, like many of the other released activists, spent more than a month in prison in 2012 for obstructing public officials and illegally occupying land in a protest against Boeung Kak developer Shukaku. This time around, she said, life behind bars was even more difficult.

“One day, some of our members fainted and were taken to hospital, but the prison guards said they had pretended. Later on, they locked the doors and wouldn’t let us outside to get some air, saying we are Boeung Kak women and like inciting violence,” she said.

Just a week ago, Vanny and two of the other activists hit their heads against the wall until they fell unconscious after being denied any time outside of their cell.

The guards had said “if we were furious and wanted to commit suicide, please do”, she recalled.

Seventy-six-year-old Nget Khun echoed Vanny’s complaints.

Khun – who is known universally as “Mummy” – said the cell she shared with more than 60 other inmates got unbearably hot. But Prey Sar’s months-long water shortage and “dictatorial” guards meant that she could neither get water to cool herself, nor leave to get fresh air.

“The food in jail is not enough … and sleeping is difficult, too; sometimes I slept sitting with my knees upright, and sometimes I slept on the floor,” she added.

Kong Chantha, another of the released Boeung Kak activists, said guards tried to turn other inmates against them by using them as the reason that all prisoners were being confined in their cells.

Kuy Bunsorn, director general of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons, could not be reached yesterday.

While the 11 activists were released on Saturday, others believed to be held for political reasons, including opposition activists and monks, are expected to be released following a bail hearing today.

Opposition member “Meach Sovannara and other activists including two monks will be released tomorrow after the municipal court opens a hearing about their case,” CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhai Eang said in a statement yesterday.

Ministry Official Rejects NGO Report on City’s Slums

April 8, 2015

By Khuon Narim and Zsombor Peter ,The CambodiaDaily ,April 8, 2015

A government official rejected calls from a pair of NGOs on Tuesday to do more for Phnom Penh’s slums amid what they described as an opaque land-titling system that has routinely failed poor communities.

In a joint report, “The Exclusion of Urban Poor Communities From Systematic Land Registration in Phnom Penh,” World Vision and the NGO Forum seek to shed light on a titling system that has left many of the city’s slums behind.


Women sit next to the tracks of an abandoned railway line that runs through a slum in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)


The municipal government last year said there were 503 slum communities within city limits, which are home to more than 24,000 families, or about 140,000 people out of a total population of roughly 2 million. For their report, the NGOs interviewed about 60 families in 12 slums that the government has not put through the land-registration process.

According to the report, 10 of the 12 communities were officially informed that they would not be registered, but only half were given a reason. Even when they were offered an explanation, it was usually that the area was “too complex” or had “unclear status,” the report adds, neither of which has a legal definition in Cambodia.

“The use of such justification to arbitrarily exclude families with claims of possession…presents a significant loophole that may permit land grabbing by powerful parties at the expense of urban poor communities,” it says.

A prime example is Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood, whose residents were denied a chance at titles after City Hall leased the site in 2007 to CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin and later forced some 3,000 families out of their homes.

World Vision and the NGO Forum said the 12 slums they surveyed for the report were not facing eviction. But they said most families were still struggling to feed themselves and that the lack of land titles was keeping them from taking out low-interest bank loans that could help pull them out of poverty.

Of the dozen slums, they said, 11 were probably denied a chance at titles because they sat on state public land, which by law cannot be titled.

But NGO Forum director Tek Vannara said the government should still take responsibility for those families because it let them put down roots without letting them know that they legally could not.

“We ask the government to improve the sites and reconsider [titles] for them even though they are living illegally,” he said by telephone after the report’s launch.

The NGOs want to see the government go back to the communities left out of the registration process and offer a chance at titles to families with legitimate claims or that were denied a chance in the first place because of public infrastructure projects that encroached on their land.

At the report’s launch, however, Soun Sopha, the Land Management Ministry’s land administration director, denied that the government had treated any of the communities unfairly.

“The ministry cannot accept this report,” Mr. Sopha said. “We cannot accept it because…the communities are living on public land that cannot be registered.”

“There is no discrimination,” he added. “If you are rich or poor, short or tall, you will be registered if you comply with the land law.”

Jailed Boeung Kok Activists Recovering

April 5, 2015

Sunday, 05 April 2015; News by Khmer Times/Muny Sithyna

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Three jailed Boeung Kak activists are recovering after banging their heads against a wall to protest against prison guards they claim are mistreating them.
The activists, Tep Vanny, Bo Chhorvy, and Kong Chantha, have recovered but remain light-headed at times, said Ou Kong Chea, husband of Ms. Vanny. The prison guards refused to let them out of their cells, prompting the women to begin hitting their heads against the cell walls.
Ms. Vanny lost four of her teeth and suffered a swollen head. Ms. Chantha was seriously cut in two spots on her head before she was transported to the Khmer-Russian Friendship Hospital for stitches. She was brought back to Prey Sar Prison.
“I visited them on Saturday. Chantha is still light-headed after receiving treatment at the hospital,” said Tep Vanny’s husband. “Vanny could not eat well, she and Chhorvy are still light-headed too.”
“The weather is hot, who could endure the heat? It could affect their life,” he added.

‘Same Faces’ Protest Against PM’s Comments

March 31, 2015

By: Mech Dara , The Cambodia Daily, | March 31, 2015

Incensed by the prime minister’s assertion last week that the “same faces” always show up at protests, a group of Phnom Penh’s most prominent anti-eviction activists picketed City Hall on Monday to vent their anger.

At the opening of the Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel on March 23, Mr. Hun Sen took aim at the active protest movement in the city, and the NGOs he claims are behind it, saying that “Cambodia has become a paradise for inciting demonstrations, and the demonstrators have the same faces again and again.”

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Former Boeng Kak residents submit a petition at the World Bank’s office in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Satoshi Takahashi)

On Monday, as about 50 members of the displaced Boeng Kak community petitioned the World Bank and the U.S. and E.U. embassies, asking for their intervention, another 30 activists who regularly front land-rights protests played perfectly to the prime minister’s narrative.

“We came here to rebuke the accusations of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who accused us of being the same faces coming to protest again and again,” Bov Sorphea said.

Ms. Sorphea has come to the fore of recent demonstrations in the absence of Tep Vanny, who was jailed along with six others for obstructing traffic after placing a bed on the road outside City Hall in November to protest severe flooding of the Boeng Kak neighborhood.

Ms. Sorphea reasoned that the same faces were present at protests because the prime minister had failed to solve the city’s many land disputes and address, in particular, the long-running grievances of the Boeng Kak and Borei Keila communities.

“It’s like someone is drowning, but you do not help the person who is drowning, you take a paddle and hit them on the head,” she said.

Weather Phnom-Penh Nation View Other News Protesters Look to US, EU for Help With Boeung Kak

March 30, 2015

Monday, 30 March 2015; News by Khmer Times/Nov Sivutha

PHNOM PENH, Mar. 30 (Khmer Times) – The Boeung Kak Lake Women Association and thirteen families handed out petitions urging the United States and the European Union to push the government of Cambodia into finding a solution for the persisting land rights issue.
“The United State must take a role in asking the government of Cambodia about human rights abuses and housing rights,” the petition says.
A representative of the Boeung Kak Community, Sear Nareth, told Khmer Times, “I left my land because they threatened me by dredging into my house.”
“I will continue to protest until there is a good solution,” she said.
She claimed that the World Bank is responsible for the situation in Beoung Kak because they have given loans to companies developing in the area.



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