Joint Statement “The Culture of Impunity and Violence Must Stop”

Phnom Penh, 31st May 2012- We, Cambodian and International civil society organizations represented in this statement, condemn the use of armed force and escalating violence against citizens peacefully defending their land, labor and natural resources rights. We are referring to not only the events on 22nd May 2012, when dozens of peaceful Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) protesters were violently dispersed and two days later when fifteen (fourteen women and one male) BKL residents were sent to Prey Sar prison and charged or convicted of unfounded criminal offenses1, but also the recent shooting incidents—the killings of environmental activist Chut Wutty2 in Koh Kong province and 14-year old girl Heng Chantha3 in Kratie province, and the shooting of three young women protesting for better working conditions in Svay Rieng province. These incidents are particularly disturbing because they indicate an increasing readiness on the part of security and military forces to use lethal force against civilians.

The year 2012 has already witnessed at least five such instances, not including numerous other human rights abuses. We are deeply concerned, shocked and saddened about this escalation of violence, particularly in disputes related to Economic Land Concessions (ELCs). Pursuant to Article 41 of the Cambodian Constitution and international conventions to which Cambodia is a party, all citizens enjoy a fundamental right to free expression, which includes the right to protest against decisions of public authorities that infringe on their rights and livelihood . In practice, the exercise of this right is all too often denied or met with violent repression.

Cambodian citizens have a right to live under the rule of law. They deserve to be protected, served with dignity and fairness based on universally agreed basic rights. Public authorities not only have a duty and obligation to ensure that a culture of impunity is never condoned but also must make fighting against impunity a priority. All instances involving the use of firearms against civilians should be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated. Investigations that find shootings to be “accidental” or the result of low-ranking officers acting on their own initiative should be supported by evidence gathered in a rigorous, transparent manner. At the very least, protection against threats and intimidation should be provided to witnesses and all victims should have access to effective judicial verdict and justice.

The recent shootings took place despite the fact that Prime Minister Hun Sen has made an announcement prohibiting the use of firearms against protesters4 and issued a moratorium on the granting of ELCs5. Civil society organizations welcome the Prime Minister’s much needed directives, which work to improve human rights in Cambodia. However, the Prime Minister’s directives should be followed by detailed, binding regulations that highlight how public authorities—both local and provincial and armed forces—should thoroughly and systematically implement these directives.

It is necessary to fully review all existing concessions to ensure they all are fully compliant with relevant national and international legal frameworks. Gaps in resources or technical capacity should be identified and addressed, and the implementation of these decisions should be monitored and reported to the public.

We, the 139 undersigned civil society organizations, believe that violence against citizens is never acceptable and should cease immediately and will also continue to monitor individual cases related to land, labor and natural resources rights. In addition, we will seek to engage the Royal Government of Cambodia with the aim to strengthen the rule of law and to break the current cycle of violence and impunity.

This statement is endorsed by 139 Cambodian and International Civil Society Organizations.

Joint Statement “Justice To Be Sought”

As civil society organizations working on women’s right and gender equality, we are deeply concerned by the irregular judicial process culminating in the sentencing of 13 female peaceful protestors from Boeung Kak of up to 2 and a half years imprisonment and the arrest of another man and woman from Boeung Kak for a pre-trial detention on the same day.

Following the arrest of these women on Tuesday 22 May 2012 at a protest over a land eviction, they were held without charge until being charged, tried and sentenced all in quick succession on Thursday 24 May 2012.

The procedures adopted in this case denied these women their right to a fair trial. Their legal representatives’ requests for a postponement were denied. Their requests to review evidence were denied. Their requests for an opportunity to bring witnesses were denied. It is further reported that observers, witnesses and media were not admitted to observe the trial.

The treatment of these women could be interpreted as a heavy-handed attempt to deter individuals from defending their land rights and, in particular, to deter women from exercising freedom of expression. The 13 are all women, whose rights Cambodia has guaranteed to uphold under national and international law, including The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to release the 15 protestors and human rights defenders immediately. The proper resolution of this dispute and the right to a fair trial are essential for Cambodia to uphold itself as a democratic country with proper rule of law and respect for human rights.

Statement to The Royal Government of Cambodia must prosecute the perpetrators in the case of a shooting of a child by armed forces

We strongly condemn the shooting of the 14-year old Heng Chantha by armed forces on May 17th, 2012 in Kratie province. Heng Chantha was fatally shot in Prama village, Kampong Domrey commune, Chhlong district, when military police opened fire on villagers during a forced eviction relating to a long-running land dispute. She was at her home and was not involved in the villagers’ protest when she was hit with a bullet in her stomach. She died on her way to the hospital.

We are very concerned about the use of excessive force by armed forces against civilians, and in this case on a 14-year old girl, as this violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Cambodia has ratified. Under Article 6, every child has the inherent right to life, and Cambodia’s obligations under the Convention include “[ensuring] to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.” Thus, Cambodia is under a legal obligation to ensure that children are protected from harm.

In addition, we are alarmed about the gunning down of a young girl, as this also constitutes gender discrimination committed by one or more of Cambodian state actors. Heng Chantha was not at the scene of the protest and yet, she was targeted by military police. She was the only person fatally wounded during the clash. We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia
to launch an impartial investigation to establish how and why the victim was shot.

We also remind the Royal Government of Cambodia that it is under a legal obligation to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice. We urge the Government to send a strong message to its military personnel and to the international community that it will not tolerate the shooting of children or girls. Otherwise, there is little hope from the public that the State can be trusted to prevent this crime from happening again.

For additional information, please contact person as below mention:
Mrs. Thida Khus, SILIKA,, (855) 12 838 464
Ms. Vichuta Ly, LSCW,, (855) 12 222 173
Mrs. Sopheap Ros,, (855) 12 627 857