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Rights groups urge Cambodia to end mass evictions

SAMAA | - Posted: Jan 24, 2012 | Last Updated: 10 years ago
Posted: Jan 24, 2012 | Last Updated: 10 years ago

PHNOM PENH: Five leading human rights groups on Tuesday urged ASEAN chair Cambodia to end all forced evictions in the country and free seven people who were detained after a recent land protest turned violent.
“As the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2012, Cambodia should abide by its legal obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms… and end the practice of forced evictions that is a blot on the country's reputation internationally,” the campaigners said in an open letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Cambodia recently took over the rotating chairmanship of the 10-member regional ASEAN bloc.
The signatories of the letter, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Witness, also called for the release, “pending further investigation”, of seven residents who were arrested during an eviction of some 300 families from an area in the capital Phnom Penh on January 3.
Locals in the Borei Keila neighbourhood reacted to the demolition of their homes by throwing rocks and bottles at police, who fired back with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The five rights groups also voiced their “serious concern” over the treatment of 22 women and six children who were sent to a notorious rehabilitation centre more commonly used to hold sex workers and drug users, after they protested peacefully on January 11 against the eviction.
Four were freed after reaching a deal with the private company that is responsible for their resettlement, while the remaining women and children escaped by climbing over the facility's walls last week.
“In today's Cambodia, it's clear that one of the most dangerous places for an ordinary Cambodian to be is living on a piece of land that a rich man and his government cronies want,” Phil Robertson, HRW's deputy Asia director, told AFP.
There was no immediate comment from the Cambodian government, which has faced mounting criticism in recent years over a spate of evictions nationwide that have displaced tens of thousands of mostly poor people.
Land ownership was abolished and many legal documents were lost during the 1975-1979 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge, complicating land titling efforts. AGENCIES

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