News / Asia

Cambodia Villagers Stage 'Avatar' Themed Protest About Land Loss

Cambodian villagers affected by the loss of land in Prey Lang forest in the north of the country pray at a Buddhist shrine in central Phnom Penh, August 18, 2011. Later, most were briefly detained after they distributed leaflets in the capital, but they w
Cambodian villagers affected by the loss of land in Prey Lang forest in the north of the country pray at a Buddhist shrine in central Phnom Penh, August 18, 2011. Later, most were briefly detained after they distributed leaflets in the capital, but they w

Multimedia

Audio
Robert Carmichael

More than 100 villagers from rural Cambodia were detained briefly by the authorities in Phnom Penh after handing out leaflets detailing how government land concessions are affecting their lives.

Early Thursday, about 120 villagers gathered to pray at a Buddhist shrine on the riverfront in Phnom Penh.

Many were dressed in outfits designed to evoke a Cambodian version of the hit film "Avatar," which depicts the struggle of an alien race battling to save their forest from commercial exploitation. Protesters had green painted faces, green shirts and wore a green leaf as a hat.

Raising awareness of deforestation


They said they had come to the capital to let the public know of the troubles they face in rural areas where huge tracts of forest have been leased to domestic and foreign businesses.

Villager Kao Chart, who traveled from the northeastern province Kratie, said the forests are being cleared and people like him are losing their livelihoods. He said 20 people came from his area, and are praying to the Buddha for help. He also said taking care of the environment is a priority.

A community group said similar gatherings took place in 145 other locations across Cambodia. The claim could not be confirmed, but a nationwide effort would mark an unusual degree of cooperation on a social issue in Cambodia, where activism tends to be local and small-scale.

Land issues, however, are a significant problem affecting many communities.

Pervasive issue

Earlier this week, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, a local non-profit organization, released a report showing that ownership of at least five percent of land, nationwide, had been disputed in the past four years.

CCHR estimates that 47,000 families are either at risk of land conflict or had been affected by it.

One threatened area in the news recently was Prey Lang, the largest lowland evergreen forest in the region. Large tracts of this unprotected forest recently have been leased to rubber plantations.

Villager Kao Chart, who relies on Prey Lang for a living, said he is optimistic that coming to Phnom Penh would raise awareness of the problems. He said he hopes the demonstration will attract more support, and that the government must control deforestation.

After the prayer session concluded, the villagers dispersed around the capital and started handing out leaflets that highlight the importance of preserving the forest.

Government detentions


But within an hour or so, the authorities had detained more than 100 members of the group. All were released shortly after promising they would not hand out leaflets again without permission.

Despite repeated calls, a ministry of interior spokesman was not available to comment on the detentions or the government’s reasons for preventing the leaflets from being distributed.

Three prominent rights groups spoke out against the detentions and the ban on distributing fliers. They said authorities had claimed the act of distribution could disrupt social order.

Ou Virak, who heads the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the real reason for the detentions was that such the protests threaten the ability of the elite to exploit Cambodia’s natural resources.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More