The killing of a young teenaged girl in clashes with Cambodian military police is the latest in a series of violent conflicts between local people and the authorities trying to evict them from their land, Global Witness said today. The killing follows two weeks of mass protests by those facing forced eviction in north-eastern Kratie province, and comes less than three weeks after the killing of activist Chut Wutty while monitoring logging activities in the south-eastern Koh Kong province.
“The killing of an innocent young girl is deeply shocking, but unfortunately is not an isolated incident in Cambodia. State-sponsored land grabbing and violence against communities have long been a major problem, and it’s getting worse. As the country’s corrupt elite sells off more and more land to foreign investors without any regard for the human or environmental cost, clashes between communities with everything to lose and authorities are increasingly common. The situation is out of control, and the international community must act now before more people are killed,” said Global Witness Director Patrick Alley.
Corruption and violence in Cambodia's natural resource sector has been well documented for many years. The Cambodian government and international donors have collectively failed to tackle this problem, leaving activists from forest-dependent communities and local civil society groups to defend basic human rights, the environment, and the rule of law on their own.
Just last Friday, the UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi highlighted a number of problems in Cambodia's system of land concessions, including secrecy over deal-making and lack of consultation with affected communities.
There is a long history of the use of state military and police to defend private interests in Cambodia. Unconfirmed reports from Kratie suggest there were military police and soldiers involved in the clashes which led to Wednesday’s killing.
“Just last week the UN human rights envoy called for action to clean up the land sector in Cambodia so that communities and environment are protected. The international community can and must act to stop this – Cambodia’s donors should use their influence to force the government to change, rather than propping up a corrupt and violent regime. How many deaths will it take?” said Alley.
Global Witness is calling on the Cambodian government and its international donors to:
- Urgently reform Cambodia’s land and forest concession scheme to make sure that communities have the right to give free, prior and informed consent over decision-making around land that will affect them.
- Ensure information about land, mining and forest concessions in Cambodia is made publicly accessible;
- End the employment of Cambodia’s armed forces as guards by companies granted concessions;
- End the culture of impunity which allows the persecution and violence against activists and citizens, and take steps to ensure they can operate freely, without fear of intimidation or abuse.