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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid