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Women on front line of eviction fight

Women on front line of eviction fight

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Friends of Chea Dara, a woman who took her life on Tuesday night, console one another during an Amnesty International meeting yesterday at Meta House concerning forced evictions. Photo by: Hong Menea

Broken promises and empty commitments from the Royal Government of Cambodia must stop and be replaced by real action when it comes to forced evictions, Amnesty International said yesterday.

Launching their report on the effects of evictions and resistance on Cambodian women, Amnesty representatives said they were troubled by the treatment of human rights defenders in Cambodia.

In the case of forced land evictions, these human rights defenders are predominantly women.

“Cambodian women are increasingly at the forefront of the battle against a wave of forced evictions sweeping the country,” Amnesty Asia-Pacific deputy director Donna Guest said.

Three prominent women, who have been fighting forced evictions in Cambodia, attended the launch held at Meta House yesterday.

“Our husbands travel to work, so it is the housewives, the mothers, that are at home facing the evictions,” Boeung Kak lake resident Tep Vanny said. “We feel the worst of the economic and emotional pressure and suffering from being forced off our lands.”

The 31-year-old presented a short video Boeung Kak lake residents produced in honour of Chea Dara, who committed suicide on Tuesday amid her despair over what she believed was her pending eviction. Friends of Chea Dara, dressed in black, wept openly through the film.

The Royal Government’s broken promises have left the women fighting evictions with little hope in the legal system being able to defending them, evictees said.

“The court is never for poor people,” Tep Vanny said. “I had lived on my land since 1993, had land title since 2006, but that did not stop them from giving the concession in 2007 or starting to fill the lake in with sand in 2008.”

Leading human rights advocate and opposition Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua, who attended the launch with two of the recently resigned SRP members, similarly said the ruling party had shown it would not aid helpless villagers.

“This is a country ruled by greed, and not ruled by law,” Mu Sochua told the Post.

“The international community in Cambodia is so afraid of being kicked out that they say nothing – but they are being fooled,” she said. “This government needs the support of the international community, China alone is not enough.”

The sugar plantation in Oddar Meanchey that forced 48-year-old Hoy Mai from her land is a joint venture with tycoon CPP senator Ly Yong Phat and Thai conglomerate Mitr Phol Sugar is one example of where the international community can increase pressure, the women representatives said.

The sugar production joint venture is a major supplier of sugar to the EU and popular softdrink maker Coca-Cola.

“The EU must stop buying this sugar,” said Hoy Mai, whose home and entire possessions were torched to the ground by authorities in 2009, as she stood by helplessly and watched.

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