UN special rapporteur for Cambodia Surya Subedi has promised to raise Boeung Kak activists’ complaints over the loss of their land with government officials during his six-day visit to the country.
Despite a ban on public gatherings in the capital, about 200 Boeung Kak villagers gathered unhindered by security forces at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh yesterday to deliver a petition to Subedi.
The petition called for intervention in their land dispute and urged the Cambodian government to free 23 human rights activists and workers detained earlier this month.
Thousands of people have been evicted from Boeung Kak to make way for a $79 million development proposed by a company headed by ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin.
“In order to ensure the people in this country get full freedom in accordance with international standards, I will do my best to bring all of your concerns to discuss in the meeting which participated by donor countries, the international community and Cambodian government in the near future,” Subedi said after receiving the petition.
At least four people were killed and more than 20 injured when riot police fired on protesting garment workers on January 3.
Chan Puthisak, a representative of 48 Boeung Kak families, was arrested along with 22 others during the unrest.
The whereabouts of the 23 detainees was unknown for more than a week until it was finally confirmed they had been jailed in Kampong Cham province.
Hean Sokha, Puthisak’s wife, said she hoped Subedi’s influence could help the chances of her husband’s release.
“I believe that Subedi’s intervention to the international community and donor countries will urge the government to release my husband, human rights activists and 20 workers.”
Am Sam Ath, a legal adviser for Licadho, said Subedi’s arrival renewed the relatives’ optimism that they might see the release of their loved ones and solutions to “the chronic land disputes and salary crisis”.