When Does A Protest Become Useless?
The communities from Borei Keila and Boeung Kak lake, together with their guests from Lorpeang (Banteay Meanchey), held yet another demonstration in front of three venues: the World Bank, the European Union and finally the National Assembly.
The pertinence of their dissatisfaction cannot be questioned: they, like so many, thousands, involved in land issues in Cambodia, are victims of an unjust situation. The energy they deploy to, time after time, hit the road and protest in front of this or that institution or office, cannot be questioned either: they come up with new props, with a better organisation, have a better understanding on how to convince the security forces to let them do their thing, on how to get some journalists to still report on their activities. What one can question is the efficiency of it all… It has been so many years now that they have held demonstrations. To what effect? Shouldn’t they have had a clear victory or a demobilising defeat? They did not obtain everything they wanted. Just some of it and would have obtained nothing if they hadn’t tried.
But what is at stake here is that they have become a reference as to what is possible in terms of protest, as to how far one can resist the erosion of human rights in a tightly controlled country whose citizens are, like in most countries, preoccupied in staying below the radar while making a decent living.
Let’s not fool ourselves. Of course Boeung Kak lake can still protest because right now the authorities tolerate it: it polishes their image after the layer of murky varnish they collected early January. But the strength of Boeung Kak lake and all those who protest forced the authorities to reveal that tolerance. That gain is worth even more than a few hectares.