Anti-eviction activists from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood on Wednesday held joint protests aimed at soliciting the help of South Korea, both at the country’s embassy here and at Cambodia’s embassy in Seoul.
The demonstration in Seoul marked the first time the activists have staged a protest in another country in their years-long campaign against the eviction of some 3,000 families from Boeng Kak.
Contacted in Seoul by telephone, Boeng Kak activist Bov Sophea said she was in South Korea for an Amnesty International-sponsored workshop on human rights when she and about 30 other participants, mostly South Koreans, decided to stage a Boeng Kak protest at the Cambodian Embassy there.
Ms. Sophea said the protesters in Seoul called on the Cambodian government to demarcate a section of Boeng Kak the government has already set aside where families can keep their homes, not to evict any more residents and to release jailed fellow activist Yorm Bopha.
“The Cambodian Embassy accepted our petition and said it will forward the requests to the Cambodian government, but they did not say anything else,” said Ms. Sophea, who is scheduled to return to Cambodia tomorrow.
Boeng Kak activist Tep Vanny, who helped lead a simultaneous protest in front of the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh, said they hoped the protest in South Korea would help draw international attention to their cause. As a democracy that gives aid to Cambodia and invests heavily here, she said, South Korea could bring political pressure to bear on Cambodia on behalf of that cause.
“I think South Korea is a partner with our government, so it can cooperate to make Cambodia respect human rights and to develop transparently,” Ms. Vanny said. “South Korea is a democratic country. I think South Korea has an obligation to intervene in this issue.”
A South Korean Embassy official, who identified himself only as Mr. Jang, came out to accept the petition and said it would be reviewed. The embassy declined to comment.