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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Security forces in Cambodia forcibly evict 300 families

Security forces in Kampot Province, southern Cambodia this week forcibly evicted around 300 families and burnt their homes to the ground.

Around 100 soldiers, police, military police and Forestry Administration officials took part in the forced eviction in Anlong Krom village in the Chhuk District.

The largest group present belonged to Brigade 31 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. It has been reported that they were carrying firearms including AK47s and handguns.

Around 130 houses, mostly thatched huts built with straw and leaves, were burnt down on 17 November, leaving homeless families spending the night in the open. Many slept on the ashes of their homes. The security forces burnt down the remaining 170 houses the following day.

“The immediate priority is for authorities to provide emergency relief, including adequate shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance to the homeless families from Anlong Krom village. Then the government needs to ensure they have access to adequate alternative accommodation and compensation, and conduct a full inquiry into how they lost their homes,” said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher.

Amnesty International has learnt that members of the mixed force beat and kicked many of the villagers. Three people had to be taken to hospital for their injuries.

At no time during the two days were villagers or human rights monitors shown any documentation providing for the legal basis for the eviction.

"There was no prior notice, no eviction order, no court decision. This eviction speaks volumes about the state of rule of law in Cambodia," said Brittis Edman.

According to human rights monitors, the local authorities claim that the village is an illegal settlement; poor farmers have settled on the land there, which they thought was vacant. Some families have told human rights workers they moved onto the land up to six years ago, while others have settled there more recently. Many of the settlers are believed to have been landless and the community in Anlong Krom was living in poverty.

At least 3,100 families, or approximately 15,000 people, have been affected by forced evictions in Cambodia so far this year. Some 150,000 Cambodians are known to be living at risk of forced eviction in the wake of land disputes, land grabbing, agro-industrial and urban redevelopment projects.

The Cambodian government has an obligation under international law to protect the population against forced evictions. Whether they are owners, renters or illegal settlers, everyone should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats. The prohibition on forced evictions does not, however, apply to evictions carried out by force in accordance with the law and in conformity with international human rights law.

Amnesty International is urging the Cambodian authorities to end all forced evictions and declare and introduce a moratorium for all mass evictions until legislative and policy measures are in place to ensure that evictions are conducted only in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards.
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Rockers Placebo to play anti-slavery gig at Cambodia's Angkor Wat

BANGKOK (AFP) — Alternative guitar band Placebo are to headline the first rock concert at Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex, putting years of catering to their fans' teenage angst behind them to speak out against human trafficking.

The December 7 gig, held as part an of an MTV Exit campaign, will transform the 12th century Khmer ruins into a rock venue that will also feature US band The Click Five and a host of other international and Cambodian stars.

Lead singer Brian Molko, best known for his androgynous looks and penchant for black nail polish, told AFP he felt "honoured" to play at the historic jungle temple complex.

"It's just one of the most breathtaking and unique places I have ever spent time in really," the 35-year-old, who visited the ruins as a tourist three years ago, said in a telephone interview from London.

"It's also a very spiritual and quite calming place and so to be able to perform in front of it is just ridiculous."

But taking on the one-off gig at the crumbling ruins has presented some technical difficulties for the London-based three-piece, whose hits include "Nancy Boy" and "Pure Morning".

"We decided that since we don't have access to a massive wall of sound... we have been forced to deconstruct our songs, tear them to pieces and put them back together in novel and unusual ways.

"It's very challenging and very stimulating," he said, describing the end result as "more melody than bombast".

Molko said he hoped the show will attract Cambodians as well as international fans and highlight the problem of this "modern form of slavery".

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as soft on human trafficking, and earlier this year suspended marriages between foreigners and Cambodians amid concerns they were being used to traffic poor, uneducated women.

The US State Department refused a visa to Cambodia's late police chief Hok Lundy in 2006 due to allegations he was involved in trafficking prostitutes.

"There may be people (in the audience) who wish to get more involved in trying to change things. That's all that we can do as a rock band. We are not politicians, we are not heads of police," Molko said.

The concert is part of a series of music shows in Cambodia organised by the anti-trafficking MTV Exit campaign and the US Agency for International Development to raise awareness in young people about human trafficking in the region.

The last international recording artist to perform at Angkor Wat, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was tenor Jose Carreras who sang for a charity gala dinner there in 2002.

Molko said the rock concert, which is Placebo's only outing before their sixth studio album comes out next spring, is part of a change of focus for him after becoming a father three years ago.

"When you have somebody in your life that you care about more than yourself it's a massive shift in perspective in the way that you view the world," Molko said.

"It does make you want to become involved in the planet that we live on. It's the world that you are passing on to your children."
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World's poorest nations call for more aid amid global financial woes

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) — The world's poorest countries on Thursday called on rich nations to continue giving aid despite the global financial crisis.

The appeal from trade ministers and representatives from nearly 50 Least Developed Countries ended two days of talks in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap to discuss trade and the credit crunch.

Jointly organised by the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the meetings discussed the need for an Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative to speed up trade reforms in poor countries.

"The least developed countries appeal to rich countries to continue to give all kinds of aid to them," said Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh.

"AFT can help to strengthen our capacity in producing products that can be exported to the rich countries," he said.

In his opening remarks on Wednesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the world's poorest nations were already suffering from tariffs and strict controls hampering their access to world markets.

Ministers also discussed the latest "Doha" round of WTO negotiations, officials said.

Attempts to hammer out a global trade pact have repeatedly broken down as the world's poorest nations and economic powers trade blows.

Developing countries have been pressing for greater access to agricultural markets in the industrialised world.

Developed nations are in return seeking a better deal for their manufactured products in developing markets.
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