Rights Report Highlights Land Issues

Land grabbing, attacks on union leaders and the government’s continued clamp down on peaceful pro­tests ranked as the most common human rights violations in 2004, the Cambodian Center for Hu­man Rights stated in its annual report.

The CCHR report, obtained Thursday, highlighted the assassi­na­tions of union leaders Chea Vi­chea and Ros Sovannareth as events that “rocked” Cambodia last year. But most violence was non­le­thal and involved ongoing at­tacks against protesters, especially in the la­bor industry and land concessions.

“I think for the human rights situation in Cambodia, there is no big difference from last year in the sense that cases are still happening,” said Danilo Caspe of CCHR’s monitoring and investigation de­partment. “This time there are a lot of situations related to land problems,” Cas­pe said, pointing to Phea­pimex and other concessionaires that are accused of grabbing land from lo­cal villagers.

In separate reports released over the past two months, Adhoc and Li­cadho noted that while political violence continued, other is­sues had emerged as the predominant violations. The Adhoc report called at­tention to the plight of the Mon­tag­nard refugees but also focused on on­­going land issues—which tri­pled from 2003—and the government’s crackdown on de­mon­stra­tions. “Freedom of expression through demonstrations was completely blocked,” said Ny Chak­riya, Adhoc’s head of investigation.

Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said that with three Sam Rainsy Party members losing their parliamentary immunity and Tep Vong, supreme patriarch of the Mohani­kaya Buddhist sect, banning NGO meetings at pagodas, the trend appears to be shifting to violations of the freedom of expression.

Om Yentieng, director of the government’s human rights committee, dismissed the NGO’s re­ports. “[The NGOs] are stepping on their own heels in speaking out,” said Om Yentieng, using the analogy to describe the contradiction in rights groups being able to speak freely about the lack of freedom of speech in Cambodia.

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