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.