Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian activist first Southeast Asian to receive prestigious rights award



Cambodian activist first Southeast Asian to receive prestigious rights award

Cambodian activist first Southeast Asian to receive prestigious rights award

121004_02b

The Venerable Luon Sovath (C) is detained by police, monks and unidentified plain-clothed men in Phnom Penh in May 2012. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

The Venerable Luon Sovath (C) is detained by police, monks and unidentified plain-clothed men in Phnom Penh in May 2012. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Activist monk Luon Sovath has been named the recipient of this year’s Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for his work promoting villagers’ land claims and publicising rights abuses.

A familiar figure at protests in Cambodia, including the widely decried May trial of the Boeung Kak 13, Sovath is the first Southeast Asian to receive the award, which was established in 1993 and is judged by 10 rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

“The intention of the award is to provide recognition and protection,” said Martin Ennals Foundation director Michael Khambatta, adding that Sovath “has an innovative approach to human rights defence” and is a “forceful advocate” against forced evictions, which deserve more international attention.

According to Dr Pung Chhiv Kek, president of rights group Licadho, which has worked closely with the Buddhist monk, “he is the rare monk who is willing to use his standing as a religious authority figure to speak out against injustices in Cambodia …This is very threatening to authorities, because most Cambodians are very religious people”.

Known as “the multimedia monk”, Sovath has been filming confrontations with the government since 2009, when his video of police violently evicting villagers in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kraeng district undermined police claims that they had fired into the crowd in self-defence.

Since then, Sovath has supported the land claims of several communities, including those of Boeung Kak and Borei Keila, leading religious authorities to ban him from all pagodas in the capital and his province of Siem Reap last year.

In May, he himself became a YouTube hit when he was filmed being forced into a car at the aforementioned Boeung Kak protest, after which religious authorities threatened to defrock him if he did not cease his activism.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Courts’ decisions now published as reference source

    The Ministry of Justice has published 44 verdicts from civil litigation cases which can be used as models for court precedents and for study by the public and those who work in pertinent fields. Publication of the verdicts on December 31 came as the result of joint

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • China firm to develop Mondulkiri airport

    Tourism to the Kingdom’s northeast corridor could experience a remarkable metamorphosis after the government decided in principle of a Chinese company to study and develop a proposal to build a regional-level airport in Mondulkiri province, according to industry insiders. The Council of Ministers said