The benefits of Cambodia’s recent development remain concentrated in the hands of a few, lawmakers are told
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A child plays on the fringes of Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake. Conditions for Cambodia's poorest are worsening, especially in the countryside, despite apparent gains made by the economy.
RISING income inequality is fueling human rights abuses across the Kingdom, making reducing the gap between rich and poor "among the most significant human rights challenges facing Cambodia today", a UN official told Cambodian lawmakers on Tuesday at the government celebration of International Human Rights Day.
"Recent years have seen Cambodia's economy grow rapidly," said Douglas Broderick, the UN resident coordinator for Cambodia. "For ordinary Cambodians, this growth has brought hope and optimism. But so far, the benefits have not been evenly spread."
Despite years of double-digit growth, the fruits of Cambodia's development have remained concentrated in the hands of a few, many rights groups say, adding that this pattern is intensifying as development makes land prices rise, precipitating mass forced evictions.
Celebrations are expected to take place across the country to mark Human Rights Day - which is officially held today - with many groups saying they will be using the opportunity to highlight rights violations.
Growth has brought hope ... but so far, the benefits have not been evenly spread.
In Dey Krahorm, villagers who face eviction will be holding a community gathering to bring attention to the issue of land grabbing in their slum neighbourhood, a press release from residents said.
Despite concerns the government would, as has happened in the past, veto public celebrations of Human Rights Day, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng stepped in to save the holiday.
According to a letter signed on Saturday, he ordered the Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema to facilitate the events.
"Cambodia is a signatory of this convention [the Universal Declaration of Human Rights]," Sar Kheng wrote.
The goal of the day is twofold: to mark human rights achievements and also to shed light on rights violations in Cambodia, a coalition of NGOs called Friends of December 10th, he said.
In Battambang, at least 1,000 people are expected to fly balloons, while in Banteay Meanchey province, some 500 tuk-tuk and mototaxi drivers will gather for a solidarity concert.
In Phnom Penh, Suon Sareth, the executive secretary of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 21 NGOs, said that 5,000 people are expected to march from Wat Lanka to Wat Botum to celebrate Human Rights Day.
All of the day's events are tied together by a common theme, "We All Need Freedom and Justice", symbolised by a blue krama, organisers say.
"Human Rights Day is a day for everyone," Suon Sareth said.