Annual Report: Cambodia 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Cambodia 2010

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Head of state King Norodom Sihamoni
Head of government Hun Sen
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 14.8 million
Life expectancy 60.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 92/85 per 1,000
Adult literacy 76.3 per cent

Forced evictions continued to affect thousands of families across the country, predominantly people living in poverty. Activists from communities affected by forced evictions and other land confiscations mobilized to join forces in protests and appeals to the authorities. A wave of legal actions against housing rights defenders, journalists and other critical voices stifled freedom of expression. The first trial to address past Khmer Rouge atrocities took place. The defendant, Duch, pleaded guilty, but later asked to be acquitted.

Background

At least 45,000 garment factory workers lost their jobs as a result of the global economic crisis and a number of companies reduced salaries. Surveys indicated growing mass youth unemployment as some 300,000 young people faced joblessness after completing their high school and bachelor degrees. For the first time, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered Cambodia's state report, which the authorities had delayed submitting for 14 years. The Committee identified serious shortcomings in the implementation of a number of treaty obligations, including those relating to the judicial system, housing and gender inequalities. Cambodia's human rights record was reviewed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in December.

Forced evictions

Forced evictions continued to affect the lives of thousands of Cambodians. At least 26 forced evictions displaced around 27,000 people, the vast majority from communities living in poverty. In July, a number of international donors called for an end to forced evictions "until a fair and transparent mechanism for resolving land disputes is in place and a comprehensive resettlement policy" is established.

  • On 16/17 July, security forces forcibly evicted Group 78, a community group in Phnom Penh after a deeply flawed legal process. The last 60 families had no choice but to dismantle their houses and accept compensation that prevented them from living near their former homes and workplaces. Most of the families were relocated outside the city with few work prospects.

After civil society criticism, the World Bank attempted to strengthen safeguards in a multi-donor supported Land Management and Administration Project to protect security of tenure for people in urban slums and other vulnerable areas. In early September, the government responded by terminating its contract with the Bank.

Human rights defenders

The rich and powerful continued to abuse the criminal justice system to silence people protesting against evictions and land grabs. Police arrested at least 149 activists, for their peaceful defence of the right to housing.

  • On 22 March, security forces shot at unarmed villagers in Siem Reap province, injuring at least four people. The villagers, from Chikreng district, were protesting against the loss of farmland that had come under dispute. By the end of the year, no authority had investigated the shooting, but police had arrested at least 12 of the villagers, two of whom were subsequently convicted of robbery for attempting to harvest their rice on the disputed land. Seven were acquitted but remained in arbitrary detention pending a prosecutorial appeal.

Informal representatives from communities in most provinces increasingly formed grassroots networks, jointly voicing concerns over forced evictions and intimidation.