In Cambodia it

INDONESIA

Senin, 23 Jun 2014 11:09 WIB

Author

Rebecca Henschke

Cambodia, activist, land rights, Tep Vanny, Rebecca Henschke

Carried out in the name of progress, forced eviction, now rank as one of the world's most serious human rights abuse.

Across Cambodia developers are seizing valuable pieces of land, throw the existing community out, and after protests ebb away, building new developments on them: malls and apartments for the newly rich.

And in Cambodia it’s housewives who have become the front line in the fight against this.

Tep Vanny use to run a small shop in this room….

Now it’s the headquarters for her communities fight to save their homes. 
 
“I had a small business to earn money to feed my family. But after the development and when I saw the injustice from the government and the company we were suffering and I decide to join together with the other women to find justice.”

Tep’ husband’s parents bought this home for them when they married in 1993.

But in 2007 they were told by the government they would have to move….

A  Chinese-backed private development company was granted the right to build on and around her home….and to fill in the Boeung Kak Lake lake in central Phnom Penh.

“Here before was a lake, it was a nature lake that we think has been here for 500 or 600 years. So we don’t why the government filled it in with sand and gave a license for our land to the company for 99 years.”

Because of Cambodia’s violent, fractured history, it isn’t easy to say who owns what.

The Khmer Rouge eliminated property rights…

Now the rich and powerful have a greater influence over the implementation of new land laws. 

As a result the poor are being forcibly evicted from the city…

While sand was being pumped into the lake…

The women of Boeung Kak took to the streets ….

“We know that if the men join together to find justice they will be arrested and beaten until they are dead.”

But being women didn’t stop them from being arrested and sentence to two and half years in jail in 2012.

After an international outrage Tep Vanny sentence was reduced….

But the lake was filled in….and more than 4,000 peoples' resident’s homes were destroyed and thousands of their livlihoods submerged.

“They feed the fish and they make the morning glory…they make a small house and a small restaurant and it was easy to make the money….also it help to create cool weather but now it’s very hot.”
Q. Before it was very beautiful?
“Yes and especially the Lake is in the middle of the city—the heart of the city…we can leave near the hospital, near the schools, the market and we can easily find a job.”

Things too important to give up easily….

And Tep Vanny and around a handful of other women have recently new and titles for their homes.

A bitter sweet victory

They now have many enemies.

Recently bus carrying the group back from Siem Reap was attacked. 

“One man use a gun to shoot at our car and this is a sign of the more and more pressure on us from the government.”

She says when they went to the police – they told them they were lying…and it was probably a rock that hit the bus.

“But it’s not true. Because we saw the man use the gun and point it at the car and we saw the sound.”

Today the Boeung Kak women are outside the central police station in Phnom Phen demanding the case be investigated.
 
Something the officers are reluctant to talk about…

Q. Are the police investigating this incident??
 “It’s being investigating.”
Q. What stage is it at? Has it already begun or not yet?
“I will not answer that.  We can’t speak about it.  You just need to know that the process has begun.”
Q. The women think that the authorities might have been involved in the shooting…
“Everyone in the world knows what the procedure is, how the authorities should act. There’s no need to ask such questions.”

Tep Vannys husband use to be a solider in the Cambodia army…. But he has been suspended.

“Suspended by the authorities because of my protests…he now stays at home, he lost his job. So now he stays at home and helps me to take care of the children and he support me to find justice.”
Q. How does he feel seeing you beaten up by police and soldiers- is he worried about you?
“He supports me 100 percent but he still worries about my sexuality…because I have been beaten and arrested so many times. He is very very worried but he has no choice because he knows our land and our house is our life.”

For her courage ….She has won numerous awards international awards…. And along with the other Boeung Kak women has become the face of resists against rapid land grabbing taking place across the country. 

“I decided to die. I don’t care about my life because if I die today my children can live tomorrow. If I do nothing it’s the same as if I kill myself and kill my children. That’s why I have to join with my community to find justice from the government.”

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