Press Release / Oct. 17, 2012

Cambodia should not stand for UN Security Council until land grabs and repression stop

Cambodia should not be given a seat on the United Nations Security Council while its ruling elite continues to commit widespread human rights abuses and sell off vast tracts of land and forest for private gain, said Global Witness today. The country is running for the Asia-Pacific non-permanent seat against South Korea and Bhutan, with the result due on Thursday 18th October.

Corruption and violence in Cambodia's natural resource trade have been well documented for years, but have worsened in recent months as the battle for land and forests intensifies. Donor governments and the international community have consistently failed to tackle this problem, leaving Prime Minister Hun Sen and his clique to do as it pleases. Increasingly desperate citizens are left to stand up for human rights, the environment, and the rule of law on their own.

“The UN Security Council should be working out how to deal with the land-grabbing crisis in Cambodia, not giving the government responsible the chance of a seat at the highest table in international decision-making,” said Global Witness Director Patrick Alley. “The world has stood by for too long while the country’s corrupt elite strips the country bare and persecutes anyone who objects. Giving them PR opportunities like this beggars belief.”

Next month, world leaders arrive in Phnom Penh for the ASEAN and East Asia Summits. Hundreds of families are facing eviction from their land so that the airport can be expanded for international delegates, including President Obama. Local people say they have not been consulted or promised any compensation for losing their homes. When told of the evictions, the US Embassy said “these are Cambodian government actions they are taking. It’s not just President Obama coming.”(1)

Violence and state repression in Cambodia is becoming increasingly deadly. Since the start of 2012 a 14 year old girl has been shot and killed in a forced eviction, anti-illegal logging activist Chut Wutty was murdered by armed forces, and journalist Hang Serei Oudom, was found axed to death in the boot of his car after reporting on timber cartels. Intimidation and arrests of those who speak out have become an everyday event, supported by the courts. Two weeks ago the investigation into Chut Wutty’s murder was dropped and broadcaster Mom Sonando was jailed for 20 years for supposedly inciting rebellion.

Under Hun Sen’s rule, 2 million hectares of Cambodia’s land – an area the size of New Jersey – has been transferred to industrial agricultural companies, with most of it taken from small-scale farmers. The communities affected have rarely been consulted or compensated.

“The world is failing Cambodia yet again. The UN is currently preoccupied with getting rid of corrupt and brutal tyrants, yet Hun Sen and his cronies are able to grandstand on the world stage just as the crackdown on their people worsens,” said Alley. “Cambodians will be forgiven for asking why the international community is so willing to look the other way. The UN and the country’s donors must take a stand.”


Contact: Josie Cohen, [email protected] +44 7850739451.

Ali Hines. [email protected] +44 7738 712 955

Notes to editors:

1) Reports of mass evictions ahead of the summits appear in the Cambodia Daily – see here

Global Witness investigates and campaigns to prevent natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses