News / Asia

Asia Rights Activists Highlight Risks for Development Opponents

A Boeung Kak lake protester cries as she confronts a line of riot police officers during a protest rally against land eviction near the prime minister's residence, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 2, 2013.
A Boeung Kak lake protester cries as she confronts a line of riot police officers during a protest rally against land eviction near the prime minister's residence, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 2, 2013.
Ron Corben
Human rights advocates in Southeast Asia are warning about increasing dangers to environmental and community organizers, following several high-profile killings in recent years. They say Asia's economic growth is increasing conflicts with local communities and endangering advocates who oppose big development projects.
 
Police scuffled with protestors, mostly women, in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh earlier this month. The demonstrators were resisting eviction from their homes to make way for a luxury housing estate.
 
Such protests are becoming more common in Cambodia. This year Amnesty International said in its annual report that Cambodia has experienced a deterioration of freedom of expression and assembly, in part because of forced evictions and land grabbing.
 
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDF) said Cambodia’s government has granted some 2.2 million hectares of land concessions to more than 200 companies. Other groups say the figure could be up to 4.0 million hectares - or one fifth of the land under cultivation.
 
“In Cambodia local community representatives, human rights defenders activists, journalists, even parliamentarians are routinely threatened and with legal action for defending their homes, their land, their forests," noted Shalmali Guttal, a senior researcher at the non-government organization, Focus on Global South. " Land, environment related conflicts have sharply escalated over the past several years.”
 
The protests mark a trend across South East Asia, where an investment boon in agriculture, manufacturing and real estate is reshaping economies and communities.
 
Countries in the region have posted annual growth of seven to eight percent in recent years, lifting millions out of poverty. But much of the new investment is being driven by big development projects, many of which have foreign backers.
 
Rights advocates such as Shalmali Guttal say the growth and development often come at a steep cost to local communities.
 
“Human rights violations, environmental destruction, and rising inequality - it’s an intrinsic part of the development model," Guttal said. "So Asia might be the engine of growth and the one region that will help the rest of the world to get past the global financial crisis or come out of the doldrums but it’s at a huge cost for communities, the environment and rights in Asia.”
 
In Burma, conflict over the Letpadaung Copper Mine Project, a joint venture between the military and Chinese investors, led to arrest warrants in June against three activists opposing the project. The mine has displaced 26 villages and led to the confiscation of over 2,800 hectares.
 
Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said the opening of Burma’s economy has triggered a rush by the country’s elites to profit off land and development deals.
 
“They were out of the global mainstream all of a sudden they’re the people with all the connections and all have the ability to get things done in Burma," Robertson noted. "These are people who are cashing in now in order to solidify the status of their family for a generation or many generations.”
 
Earlier this year Laos came under the international spotlight after the disappearance of acclaimed community development worker Sombath Somphone. He had played a major key role in organizing a “peoples” forum during last year’s Asia Europe Summit. His whereabouts remain unknown.
 
In Thailand environmental rights lawyer Srisuwan Janya said more than 20 activists over the past 12 years have been killed for campaigning against projects or local developments. Srisuwan points to close ties between local business and political figures for the violence.
 
He said activists who are campaigning against such projects face great danger and local communities are not having their interests addressed.
 
Activist groups are calling for the international community to play a greater role in preventing development abuses and protecting community organizers across Southeast Asia. But they acknowledged that with so much politically and economically at stake in some of the region’s biggest development projects, those who oppose them will continue to face risks for speaking out.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid