One of the first things UN Special Rapporteur Surya Subedi did on his week-long fact-finding mission in Cambodia was visit the grave of slain environmentalist Chut Wutty.
It wasn’t on the itinerary, but Subedi, rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, said he wanted to “convey a message” about the use of violence against activists.
“My hope is that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.”
He made the unplanned stop on Saturday morning, at the beginning of several “eye-opening” visits to provinces and communities where Cambodians have been displaced during land disputes.
Although he originally planned to train his energies on parliament, Subedi received so many complaints about eviction issues that his attention had shifted to the impact of land concessions on Cambodians, he told the Post yesterday.
Under his mandate, Subedi conducts fact-finding missions and presents an annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Nepali national also reiterated concerns from last year’s report about free expression and what he called the disproportionate use of defamation law on human rights defenders, journalists and activists.
But land was what stood out on this trip.
Especially on his visit to the residents of Borei Keila, where villagers have lived in squalor since Phan Imex, backed by the Phnom Penh Municipal authority, demolished their homes on January 3.
“I was shocked by the conditions they were forced to live in. Many of them seem to be virtually living on the top of a heap of rubbish and in very inhumane conditions,” he said. “The other thing was how the company was able to get away without honouring the deal that was made in the past.”
He said his attempts to reach out to various companies connected to evictees were unsuccessful.
As far as freedom of movement, Subedi said he was not barred from visiting any part of the country or from interviewing residents.
He did, however, say he wished there was more access to Ministry of Agriculture officials, the primary ministry granting economic land concessions.
Discussing Chut Wutty, Subedi said: “It was a big loss for the country.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org