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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid