1. Police Has Its Hands Full…

    Both the former Boeung Kak lake residents and the villagers evicted from Lor Peang held a demonstration, giving the police quite a lot of work. The Boeung Kak residents started with a demonstration at the Singaporean embassy because a Singaporean company bought some land from Shukaku Inc which evicted some 3000 of the 4000 families near the lake. Eggs were thrown and the small crowd then tried to reach the National Assembly but was held back by the police.

    At the same time the villagers from Lor Peang wanted to reach Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in the capital but were prevented from doing so.

    And it seems the evicted villagers from Battambang and Pailin province who arrived day before yesterday at Wat Chas encountered some problems with the police as well…

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  2. They Come, And Come, And Keep Coming…

    There is a big influx of villagers having land issues in the countryside and coming to Phnom Penh to find a solution to their problem.

    Yesterday the villagers from Lor Peang in Kamong Chhnang province had a demonstration. Late last night some 230 people involved in land issues in Battambang and Pailin arrived by mini-van and are resting at the Wat Chas pagoda on the Chroy Changva peninsula.

    This is a follow-up post on the ‘Quest for Land’ story which is available as an iApp on iTunes and which reports on land issues in Cambodia since the year 2000 with texts by Robert Carmichael and over 700 photographs.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  3. To Be Dammed…

    Work in progress… See more work at THIS and THIS link.

    The construction of the Sesan2 dam in Stung Treng province (Northern Cambodia) is well under way and supposed to be finished by 2016-17, threatening the livelihood of 5 villages.

    For sure Cambodia needs dams to fuel its economic growth. For Banlung city alone the power needs jumped from 1 Mw in 1998 to 7 Mw today. That it has to be done at the expense of people living along the shores of the Sesan and the Srepok rivers or anyone else is questionable. The monetary compensation policy for those whose houses and land will be submerged is rather difficult to assess: there are very different views on the price of land. The plan at the relocation site does not respond to the needs of the villagers: a plot of land of 5 meter by 20 meter is insufficient to build a house, fit the cattle, chicken, tractor, boat engine, cart and other usual paraphernalia found on a farm. The quality of the allocated 5 hectare of farmland is uncertain and might not be suitable to grow the rice.

    The impact on the fish population for sure will be felt by the relocated villagers, but also by those living downstream: it is estimated that the planned dams on the North Cambodian rivers will diminish the number of fish by 9%.

    The ecological impact, even before the Sesan2 is finished, is already considerable. The future reservoir for the dam is being cleared of all its precious timber, much to the benefit of those who will trade further down the line but also to the villagers themselves who are scrambling to make big money. The atmosphere in Srekor village has totally changed. From a quiet village with some buffaloes chewing on hay, it turned into a showcase of the latest 2700 $US motorbike.

    So what is the real price of those dams going to be? The purely economical one or the one integrating the human and ecological impact? Will it only be the one paid for wages, bags of cement and steel (which in normal circumstances would be 1.2 million $US per potential Mw and seems to be more like 2.1 million $US for the Sesan2), or the one where the company, the Cambodian government, the villagers and, yes, even the fish will be satisfied?

    What is the real price for development anyway? Clearly, human intellect, if it wasn’t obscured by greed, be it in Cambodia or in any other country, could find decent answers, provide satisfying solutions.

  4. Off To The North…

    Leaving Phnom Penh today for Stung Treng to continue working on the ‘Dammed’ project. Will be back at the end of the week…

    See the first batch of photographs AT THIS LINK

  5. Judicial Machine Rolling…

    The 5 opposition CNRP lawmakers who were arrested for incitement to violence following yesterday’s outbursts of violence (see HERE) during a demonstration requesting freedom of speech are being tried at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. About 500 CNRP supporters gathered at the blockade set up by the riot police to prevent access to the court, soon joined by CNRP lawmakers.

    The implacable logic of the ruling CPP on issues regarding justice which amounts to ‘What we are doing is always legal and what the opposition is doing is illegal when we decide it is’ is spread out in the open again.

    For the armed forces to use lethal weapons, shoot demonstrators or even kill them, instead of applying well known crowd control techniques, for municipal guards to consistently provoke violence because of an uncontrolled behaviour does not, for the ruling party, justify any prosecution or arrest. When one protest, out of dozens of protests in the previous months, turns violent at the hand of CNRP supporters, the judicial machine quickly sets in and targets not the perpetrators, but those who supposedly incited the violence. Why can’t it target those who ordered the excessive violence used by the armed forces?

    Because the prevailing logic within the ruling party is one of old-fashioned politics based on developing antagonism, of machismo muscle flexing, on supposedly clever ‘divide to reign’ strategies.

    It certainly is not a logic which sets out to benefit ALL Cambodians.

    The simple notion of impartiality is totally absent within a fraction of the population. Even the Red Cross/Crescent, supposedly representing the essence of impartiality worldwide, seems to be contaminated by partisan politics in Cambodia: the municipal guards beaten up by protesters yesterday received 25$ from the Cambodian Red Cross. Has the Cambodian Red Cross ever visited those, innocent or not, shot by the military or beaten up by the same municipal guards in the previous months?

    PS: I will leave for Belgium tonight and will not cover what certainly will be interesting Cambodian events in the coming month. Sorry…

  6. Violence Calls For Violence…

    The notoriously violent Municipal Security Guards for the first time took a serious beating today at a rallye called by the opposition CNRP requesting that ‘Freedom Park’, fenced off by barbed wire and a 24h presence of riot police since a violent crackdown of striking workers in the aftermath of the 2013 elections, be returned to the public as an open space where freedom of expression could again prevail.

    Several Municipal Security Guards were seriously injured and brought to the hospital.

    Three CNRP lawmakers were detained upon leaving the area where the demonstration took place and are held at the Phnom Penh central police station.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  7. Boeung Kak Still Knocking At The Gates…

    Boeung Kak lake community members, some carrying model houses, held a demonstration in front of the Phnom Penh Municipality, seeking a final resolution for their 7-year-long struggle after a private company obtained a 133 hectares area and proceeded evicting 3000 of the 4000 families living there.

     is a follow-up post on the ‘Quest for Land' story which is available as an iApp on iTunes and which reports on land issues in Cambodia since the year 2000 with texts by Robert Carmichael and over 700 photographs.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  8. Episode 3, Day 2, Part 1: Where Is The Fervour?

    Where is the fervour which was swelling the streets of Phnom Penh during the previous ceremonies around the passing away of King Norodom Shanouk? Where has it gone? Besides invited groups and boy-scouts which were provided with  plastic flowers and small photographs of the late King, concentrated along Sihanouk and Sothearos Boulevards, the carefully choreographed procession walked along empty streets…

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  9.  Episode 3, Day 1, Part 2 of King Sihanouk Funeral…

    A somehow subdued ceremony was held in front of the Royal Palace in the afternoon of the 1st of 3 days of ceremonies for the transfer of late King Norodom Sihanouk’s ashes to a stupa inside the Royal Palace compound.

    Was it the presence of a delegation of opposition CNRP lawmakers, led by its Vice President Kem Sokha, which triggered a change of announced plans and kept both the Apsara dancers, all readied with  candles, as well as the Queen Mother and her son King Sihamoni inside, behind the gates of the palace?

    Besides a few tourists, delighted by the show of colourfull saffran-clad monks in front of the fairy-tale lights of the palace’s walls, there was no public to be seen: a far cry from the throngs of devotees who filled the streets during the previous ceremonies in 2013.

    (Source: johnvink.com)

  10. Vietnamese Embassy Benefits Police Protection…

    About 200 members of the Khmer Youth Group, together with other civil society groups, monks from the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ), Radio Beehive’s Mam Sonando and CNRP Lawmaker Real Camerin, stormed through two or three blockade attempts by Municipal Security Guards and Riot Police before being stopped at a few meters from the Vietnamese Embassy. During the three-hour standoff, there was some pushing and pulling, and a few stones were thrown. The demonstration was held to demand apologies from Vietnam regarding what the protesters consider the annexation of Kampuchea Krom.

    See also HERE

    (Source: Vietnamese Embassy Benefits Police Protection...)