Saturday, May 12, 2012

UN's Subedi 'worried' by violence against activists


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Surya Subedi, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, speaks to the Post yesterday. Photograph: Joseph Pocs/Phnom Penh Post

Citing several incidents, the United Nations Special Rapporteur in Cambodia today called a recent pattern of violence against human rights activists in the Kingdom a “worrying trend.”

“These individuals assume great risk in undertaking their work and are entitled to protection by the state,” Surya Subedi said at a press conference that bookended his seventh human rights fact-finding trip to the country.

Under his mandate, Subedi conducts research missions and presents an annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September.

The overarching theme of this year’s report will be economic land concessions, both the impact they have on the environment and on the lives of everyday citizens.

During the weeklong trip, Subedi met with communities affected by land concessions in the provinces of Ratanakiri, Stung Treng and Kratie, as well as provincial authorities. He said he would keep trying to contact the companies, developers and agricultural ministry officials involved, whom he was unable to reach.

"I will be writing to them, asking them to tell me their own side of the story, and what are there own concerns," he said. “I monitor the situation of human rights in this country throughout the year and I keep receiving information from people from all walks of life."

Many of the questions he faced, however, concerned violence against activists such as Chut Wutty, who was shot to death in Koh Kong province by a military police officer last month.

“Chut Wutty’s killing is not an isolated case,” he said, adding that he has documented four instances where live ammunition has been used against defenders of human rights.

Subedi attributed the trend to a variety of factors, including land rights.

“One of them is, of course, [an] ongoing issue of impunity,” he said. “And, of course, another one is land is a very attractive commodity, and there are high stakes involved here."