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Monk, publisher win awards

Monk, publisher win awards

A monk who went into hiding in March over fears authorities would arrest him for attending land dispute protests will be awarded Human Right’s Watch’s Hellman/Hammett award next month, along with an anti-government newspaper publisher.

Venerable Loun Savath, who has come out of hiding and is now living in Slaeng pagoda in Siem Reap province, said yesterday that the award – which is granted to those who speak out in the face of intimidation – was for the people.

“Though I received the award I don’t regard it as mine, I regard it as people’s award that are thirsty and hungry for the truth,” he said.

In April, a declaration banished Venerable Loun Savath from all pagodas in the capital. It argued his actions had violated the rules of Buddhism and caused villagers to view the religion negatively.

Khmer Machas Srok newspaper publisher, Hang Chakra, will also receive the  prize for his defiant critiques of the Cambodian People’s Party after spending more than nine months in prison for an article alleging government corruption in 2009.

Hang Chakra said yesterday he was “very excited” to receive the award for his vigilance after being pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni in April 2010.

Phil Roberson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, yesterday slammed the government’s persecution of Loun Savath, saying his case was indicative of disturbing a human rights trend in Cambodia that the international community had failed to combat.  

“There is a rapidly escalating level of intimidation and attacks against those like Venerable Loun Savath who challenge the nexus of official corruption, greed and rights abuses that underpin the plague of land grabbing that is happening all over Cambodia,” he said by email.

“Ensuring respect for rights like these is one of the basic tests for the UN and development donors to ensure fair and just governance and development in Cambodia.”

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