A 15 year old girl was killed while taking part in a demonstration against the development of a rubber plantation on farmland on May 16th in eastern Kratie province. Authorities say the land in question is owned by the government, but activists argue villagers have been farming the land for many years and have nowhere else to go if it is developed by a private company. Heng Chantha, 14, was lethally shot in the abdomen and thigh during the conflict between soldiers, military and national police and protesting villagers.
Rights workers estimated between 400 and 1,000 villagers in Broma village, Chlong district, were set to be evicted from the 1,500-hectare land concession, which was granted to a company to develop a rubber plantation. They have been protesting the eviction.
In April, Cambodia's prime minister announced
that he intends to expand the production of rubber through small and large-scale plantations across the country. According to government targets, Cambodia plans to increase the area of land used for rubber plantations to 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) and to export 300,000 tons of rubber latex by 2020. All of its rubber is for export, and most is sold to Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and Singapore, where it is used in manufacturing.
The death of Heng Chantha adds to a surge in recent state sponsered violence against protesters, following the murder of environmental activist Chut Wutty
in Koh Kong province last month and the shooting injuries of three women during a garment factory protest in Svay Rieng province in February. Ou Virak
, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Wednesday’s killing “shows that the land crisis is spiraling out of control.” The United States Embassy in Cambodia released the following statement
: "We urge Cambodian authorities to undertake a thorough, transparent, and credible investigation into this matter and to hold accountable anyone criminally responsible for the killing. The United States has consistently expressed its concerns about the increasing number of land disputes in Cambodia and the potential they have to escalate into violent confrontations."
On Thursday, May 24th
, 13 women who were protesting eviction from their land without adequate compensation were given prison sentences after a three-hour trial. The women were sentenced Thursday by a Phnom Penh court after being found guilty of aggravated rebellion and illegal occupation of land. “Sentencing to jail 13 people who have been victimized by land grabbing is a complete injustice,” said Ou Virak. Those sentenced, who included a 72-year-old woman, had been residents of Phnom Penh’s Boueng Kak lake area, which the government awarded to a Chinese company for commercial development, including a hotel, office buildings and luxury housing.
The Kuy people, the Prey Lang Network, and the Cambodian people are struggling to defend their land from land grabbing. Add your voice to the campaign to protect Prey Lang forest Forest and to defend the rights of the people who are fighting to protect it. Take action here