Annual Report: Cambodia 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Cambodia 2013

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  • In May, 13 women from the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh were arrested and sentenced to two and a half years in prison after a summary trial. The women had held a peaceful protest to support 18 local families whose homes were destroyed in forced evictions. They were charged with illegal occupancy of public property and obstruction of public officials with aggravating circumstances. They were released on appeal in June, with their sentences suspended. Another woman activist, Yorm Bopha, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on fabricated charges in December.
  • Prominent journalist and government critic Mam Sonando, aged 71, was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in October for anti-state offences, including instigating “insurrection” in Kratie province. The charges were believed to be politically motivated, and no evidence warranting a conviction was presented at the trial. He was a prisoner of conscience.

Forced evictions

The crisis over land continued, with forced evictions, land disputes and land-grabbing affecting thousands of people and resulting in a rise in protests. In May, the government announced a moratorium on granting Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), and a review of existing ELCs to ensure that they conformed with existing regulations. Several ELCs were granted after the moratorium. In June, the Prime Minister launched a project to allocate land titles to people living inside state forests, and economic and other land concessions. Thousands of student volunteers were tasked with mapping land and collecting information on occupancy.

  • In a violent forced eviction in January, the homes of around 300 families living in Borei Keila, central Phnom Penh, were destroyed by construction workers from a development company. Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets against the residents, and rocks, logs and bottles were thrown during clashes. More than 64 people were reportedly injured, and eight people arrested. The evictees were taken to two relocation sites outside Phnom Penh with no adequate sanitation, housing or work opportunities. Some 125 families refused to go, and remained in squalid conditions near their former homes.

International justice

Investigations into Cases 003 and 004 were stalled amidst allegations of government interference in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The Supreme Council of Magistracy rejected the appointment of reserve Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet as International Co-Investigating Judge in January, despite his nomination by the UN. He resigned, effective early May, citing obstruction by his Cambodian counterpart. US Judge Mark Harmon replaced him in October, but no progress in the two cases was reported. Lack of funding resulted in the trial hearings in Case 002 being reduced to three days a week. Ieng Thirith, one of four alleged senior Khmer Rouge leaders on trial in Case 002, was declared unfit to stand trial and released into the care of her family in September. She was believed to have Alzheimer’s disease.

  • In February, the Supreme Court Chamber at the ECCC upheld the conviction of prison chief Kaing Guek Euv, known as Duch, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and increased his sentence from 35 years to life in prison. The Court also overturned an earlier decision to grant a legal remedy to Duch for his illegal detention for eight years by the Cambodian military court.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited Cambodia in February to April, August/September and November/December.
  • Cambodia: Imprisoned for speaking out – update on Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake (ASA 23/010/2012)
  • Summit leaders should push Cambodia on human rights failures (ASA 23/019/2012)
  • Cambodia: Convictions of activists demonstrate dire state of justice (PRE01/633/2012)