2012 has probably been one of the toughest years for Human Rights defenders in Cambodia. The country has seen a dramatic increase on HR abuses counting amongst others, a high number of violent forced evictions and protests, and the growing prosecution of human rights activists across the country.
Amongst the highly publicized incidents this year, Cambodia has seen the killings of an environmental activist, a journalist working on illegal loggings; a 14 year-old girl shot during a forced eviction, 15 land-rights activist women sent to jail without a proper trial – two of which are still waiting for a trial months after their arrest; and the increasing judicial harassment of some of the most respected human rights activists –Venerable Loun Savath amongst them.
In a paradoxical week, on Monday Oct. 1, 2012, Mam Sonando, the 71 year-old journalist and owner of Beehive radio station was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of insurrection. A day later, Venerable Loun Savath was awarded the Martin Ennals Award, one of most respected recognitions a Human Rights Defender can be granted. Not long after, it was announced Tep Vanny – one of the most prominent Boeung Kak demonstrators – will receive in Washington D.C. the 2013 Global Leadership Award for her work to ‘strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity, and protect human rights’.
Despite huge attention from the international community to both of these cases, the tension keeps growing inside the country. Protests against Human Rights issues seem to be on the raise, as well as the criticism to the government by local and international NGOs. In the meanwhile, the government keeps fighting back the allegations.