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Continued violence intensifies need for resolution to land conflicts in Cambodia

The following joint NGO statement was issued on 3 July 2013 following the latest protests by members of the Boeung Kak community in Phnom Penh:

In the wake of another two days of protests by members of the Boeung Kak community in Phnom Penh, who are demanding just resolution to a long-standing land conflict affecting their community before the national election on 28 July 2013, we the undersigned non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wish to condemn the use of disproportionate force against protesters by the municipal police and other security forces. These protests are just the latest in a series of protests which have resulted in the use of violence or disproportionate force against protesters calling for an end to land disputes.

On 13 March 2013 a group of peaceful protesters from the Boeung Kak community were violently dispersed by a group of mixed security forces, just 100 meters from the Prime Minister's house in central Phnom Penh. As a result of the crackdown, six protesters were seriously injured, including Lous Sakhorn, husband of imprisoned Boeung Kak activist Yorm Bopha, who had several of his teeth knocked out when he was set upon by approximately ten security guards. One woman, Nhok Sophat, had her arm broken while another, Nget Khun, aged 70, was knocked unconscious. On the morning of 29 May 2013, disproportionate force was again used when Phnom Penh police chief Choun Sovann gave the order for protesters from Boeung Kak, Borei Keila and Thmor Kol communities to be dispersed through the use of high-pressure water cannons. Three protesters were knocked unconscious as a result of the blast and around 20 others were injured.

On 1 and 2 July, protesters again took to the streets calling for resolutions to drawn-out land disputes and were again met with heavy-handed tactics by mixed security forces, including municipal police and Daun Penh security guards, resulting in several injuries. It should also be noted that media conferences aired on several television stations on the night of 2 July attempted to pitch the protesters against one another and against local NGOs working for the protection of land and housing rights. Such broadcasts aim to undermine the true issues behind the protests - those of land-grabbing and forced eviction - which destroy the lives of people living in these communities, and to distract from the lack of just resolution by the authorities.

We the undersigned NGOs call for thorough investigations into the continued disproportionate and therefore illegal force used against protesters and for those found responsible to be held accountable. We also call for the authorities to fulfill promises to resolve land disputes in the city, thereby preventing future protests and maintaining peace on the streets of Phnom Penh through long-term, sustainable solutions rather than the continual use of violence, which only exacerbates the situation.

The following NGOs endorse this joint media statement:

The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

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