Recently deported Spanish researcher Marga Bujosa Segado yesterday was unapologetic for her involvement with the Boeung Kak community and called on other foreign activists to take a more active role with the country’s issues.
Speaking to the Post from Barcelona, Segado said she was fortunate to have only been deported compared to the legal troubles now facing Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea, who face incitement charges in court this morning for partaking in a Black Monday protest last week.
“I feel lucky. I am free,” she said. “[With Vanny and Sophea] the government is willing to destruct everything, and everyone is seeing that but no one is doing anything.”
Segado was deported on Wednesday night, a day after being detained for joining in protesting the arrest of the two land activists, who themselves were arrested for conducting a “cursing ceremony” last week.
Following her release on Tuesday night, Segado was asked to collect her passport on Wednesday, when immigration officials detained her again, saying that she had to leave the country.
“They said I have to buy a ticket for the same day and if I don’t, I will have to stay in detention,” she said. “They put me inside a cell and took my phone by force and they hit me [during the struggle over the phone].”
Seagdo has been in Cambodia since 2009 when she began working for an NGO, which she refused to name. In 2012, she decided to get her PhD from the University of Granada in gender studies and moved to the Boeung Kak community in 2014 to observe the activists there.
“With my research, you join into the life of the group you are studying, and I did join in every daily activities with them,” she added.
While she supported the cause and “admired the activists”, Segado said she never coordinated or organised any of the group’s demonstrations over the past two years.
She went on to express surprise at the government’s reaction to her involvement as a foreigner. “Was I expelled because it was my fault or this is a gangster government?” she said. “If it was a democratic government, do you think I would have been deported?”
Boeung Kak land activist Song Srey Leap said she met Segado in 2015, and that she was only a supporter of their movement, observing them and documenting their lives.
“If the government is putting pressure to not allow foreigners to participate with us, I do not know what law the government is using,” Srey Leap said.
However, Future Forum founder Ou Virak said it was a “fine line to tread” for foreign activists, who could provide expertise in these issues, as long as Cambodians made the final decisions.
“The rule of thumb should be that Cambodians should choose [their actions], and in the long run if they [foreign activists] want to push their own agenda, it will be counterproductive.”
Additional reporting by Lay Samean