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Cambodia: Release immediately all human rights defenders detained on the eve of ASEAN Summit!

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 16 November 2012
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Cambodia: Release immediately all human rights defenders detained on the eve of ASEAN Summit!, 16 November 2012, available at: [accessed 24 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Last Update 16 November 2012

From November 18 to 20, 2012, the Cambodian capital will welcome the 21st ASEAN Summit and the 7th East Asia Summit. On this occasion, the Observatory reiterates its call to the Cambodian authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against human rights defenders, when 2012 saw an increase in arbitrary arrests and detention, judicial harassment, and, in some cases, assassination of defenders.

In particular, defending economic, social and cultural rights has become increasingly risky for Cambodian human rights defenders, especially when their activities run up against powerful private interests which have benefited from economic land concessions granted by the Government as well as from protection of their concessions provided by State security forces.

On October 1, 2012, Mr. Mam Sonando, an outspoken advocate against human rights abuses, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment and a fine of 10 million riels after being found guilty on charges of insurrection and inciting people to take up arms against the State, in the framework of a long-running land conflict with a private company in Kratie province. Mr. Sonando's arrest also followed his reporting over Beehive Radio of a complaint lodged at the International Criminal Court (ICC) arguing that land-grabbing in Cambodia amounts to a crime against humanity. A public call for his arrest was then issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a nationwide televised speech.

Similarly, women human rights defenders Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony remain detained since September 4 and 5 respectively, on the basis of questionable allegations. Ms. Yorm Bopha, a pivotal figure in the protests against forced evictions in the Boeung Kak area of Phnom Penh, was detained for allegedly assaulting a person suspected of theft. Ms. Tim Sakmony, a leader in protests against forced evictions from the Borei Keila area of the capital, was arrested after the owner of land developer Phanimex lodged a complaint alleging that she had made a "false declaration" in a suit accusing Phanimex of inadequate compensation for persons evicted from land the company is developing.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Cambodian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Mam Sonando, Ms. Yorm Bopha and Ms. Tim Sakmony, and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them, as well as against Mr. Chan Soveth, Senior Investigator and Deputy Head of the Monitoring Section of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) – who is being prosecuted since August 2012 on the basis of charges that appear to be connected to the above-mentioned land dispute in Kratie province – and all human rights defenders in Cambodia, in compliance with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Cambodia.

The Observatory also urges the authorities to establish the full truth and re-open an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the extrajudicial killing of prominent environmental activist Mr. Chut Wutty, Founder of the National Resources Protection Group (NRPG), in Mondol Seima district, Koh Kong province, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal sanctions provided by the law, after a Koh Kong court concluded on October 22 that Mr. Chut Wutty was killed by a military police officer who was in turn fatally shot by a logging company's security guard, thereby terminating the investigation.

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