Land Rights in Cambodia and the Long Persecution of a Buddhist Monk

During a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council on October 2, Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk and human rights activist was repeatedly interrupted by Cambodia’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, An Sokkhoeurn, who questioned the legitimacy of both Sovath’s status as a monk and his claims about land rights in Cambodia. During a meeting of the 45th Regular Session of the Council, Sovath was a guest speaker of the World Organization Against Torture, a Geneva-based NGO.

“We question the status and legitimacy of this representative and of the NGO,” Sokkhoeurn said. “According to the information that the government has sent to me, he is not a real monk, he has been defrocked in Cambodia already.”

Between 2014 and 2016, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) has documented a meteoric rise in conflicts over land following Cambodia’s 2013 general election. Over 30,000 families were documented as being affected by land conflicts with the state or with private companies. In 2014, almost 50,000 people were involved in land conflicts, three times the number documented in 2013.

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