The Phnom Penh Post article "We Have No Home, Say Evictees", published on January 26, 2009, is a story that is becoming a weekly, if not daily front-page feature in local and international news.
As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international treaties that prohibit forced evictions and related human rights violations, Cambodia is obligated to protect its citizens and stop illegal evictions. According to reports from international and local human rights organisations, over 150,000 Cambodians were victims of forced evictions and land grabbing in 2007 alone. This number is increasing daily. In addition to these grave violations, over 150 villagers and land-rights activists have been sent to prison. In most cases, arrests are executed without any court order. If and when trials are conducted, the courts will be influenced by powerful companies and authorities, including the military and the police, who have full interests in these land disputes.
The majority, if not all, of Dey Krahorm's residents have full right to ownership according to the 2001 Land Law. Furthermore, the prime minister declared before the 2003 elections that the residents of this particular community and 100 other slum communities in Phnom Penh could stay and be part of development of their communities. The facts and evidence of their rights are plain, simple and clear.
Let us think of the costs Cambodia and her society have to pay when families are destroyed and separated, when our children must grow in violence, deprivation and despair, when our youth fall into the hands of human traffickers and drug dealers, when our parents living with HIV/Aids leave behind children with HIV/Aids.
Let us think of what we can do as a sign of solidarity to the victims of land grabbing and forced evictions. A very simple step is to identify the companies that won these land deals and reveal their investments in other economic activities. We can demand business with social responsibilities. We can exercise our consumer rights.
Send letters to: [email protected] or P.O.鈥圔ox 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.