TEAR Australia – Partnership Visit Report Stories

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TEAR Australia – Partnership Visit Report Stories 2 March 2015 –SounBunSak and Venerable Bo Bet The Venerable Bo Bet and is part of an independent network of Buddhist monks who have been trained by PBO in non-violent communication. The monks are now using these skills when they are involved in strikes or public protests (usually these are protests against illegal land acquisition and forced evictions). SounBunSak is a member of a network of people who have been protesting against their forced eviction to make way for the development of the BoeungKak wetland (and area of about 90 hectares) in central Phnom Penh. In 2007 the Cambodian Government made an agreement with the company Shukaku Inc. stating that the government would lease the land of the BoeungKak wetland and surrounds to Shukaku Inc. for 99 years. The wetland has now been filled in and the land of the former wetland and its surrounds is being sold off to build condominiums and business complexes. Prior to the development of the area,many people lived on the fringes of the wetland. It was an importantresourcefor fishing, harvesting plant life and a valuable water resource for every day needs. On 10 August 2009 more than 150 residencies in the BoeungKak area were issued the first eviction notices. The residents were asked to leave their homes and choose one of three compensation options: a USD 8,500 cash settlement per family; a flat in a tenement block to be built as part of the new development in addition to USD 500; or resettlement 20 kilometres outside of Phnom Penh.Residents were given one week to move and choose their compensation. The options offered did not satisfy many people – the USD 8500 per family did not take into account the size or true market value of the land being forcibly acquired (the true value was nearly always much higher), the tenement block accommodation is of very poor standard, and the replacement land is a long way off and undeveloped.People protested, and the protests got quite violent. Some activists who protested the development have been arrested and are some people are still in prison. Subsequent eviction negotiationshave been inconsistent and conducted with even greater disregard for the displaced BoeungKak residents. Some people have received USD 8,500, some have accepted alternative accommodation in the tenement block, some got less compensation (~USD 2000), and many received nothing. It is estimate that over 3,000 families have been forcibly evicted from their homes surrounding BoeungKak since August 2009 in order for the Shukaku building project to take place. There have been many protests since 2009, and many people have been arrested. It has been a long a difficult road for the protesters, but they have managed to put some pressure on the government over the issue and have received someinternational support. Most notably, in August 2011, the World Bank announced a freeze on lending to Cambodia in response to the government’s refusal to issue land titles to many of the evicted families. Forced eviction is a very contentious issue in Phnom Penh. Since 1990 approximately 11% of the population of Phnom Penh have been evicted from their homes or relocated to places that lack infrastructure. SounBunSak and Venerable Bo Bet explained that after many years of protesting the BoeungKak Lake community is now quite divided. There is a real need for the BoeungKak Lake community members to relate to each other and to the police, the company,and the government more peacefully and constructively. Bo Bet said that the PBO training had made a great difference to the way that his monks had conducted themselves in protests. Protest were now less violentandmore effective. Bo Bet said it would be wonderful if PBO could provide their training to all Buddhist pagodas! 2 March 2015–ChrayNim ChrayNim (36 years old) is from ThmorKol, a village on the edge of Phnom Penh airport. In 2012, members of the ThmorKolcommunity were told that their homes would be destroyed in 7 days time to make way for an expansion of the airport. There was no compensation offered, as the government considered them to be illegal residents. This was a big surprise to many residents who believed that they had legally purchased their land. In response, the community selected 10 people to meet with the municipal office to voice their objections. The 10 leaders also organised numerous protests outside the airport, including painting a picture of President Obama and the letters S.O.S on their roof tops during president Obama’s visit in November 2012. Eight of the ten protest leaders have been arrested at various times, most commonly on charges of disrupting traffic or being disrespectful to officers of the law. Several civil society NGOs have provided assistance (including CLEC, LICADHO, and ADHOC), primarily by providing information about legal issues and representing those arrested in court. The protest group’s profile increased dramatically in mid 2013 when their petition to International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the bank that is financing the airport expansion -received a positive response. IFC have indicated that they will only continue to finance the expansion if the evicted families are paid the market value of their homes as compensation. Also, in a recent development, IFC have agreed that after the compensation resettlement deals are distributed by the Airport owners (French-Cambodian developer, SociétéConcessionnaire de l’Aéroport), the evicted families can still file complaints if the final outcome is not satisfactory. IFC has engaged an independent ombudsman (an organisation called the Compliance Advisor Organisation, based in Washington DC) to monitor the implementation of the compensation/resettlement arrangements. In July 2014, ChrayNim participated ina one-week intensive active non-violence training with one of the organisations supported by PBO’s Mobilization Unit (Women Peacemakers) and she has been one of 6 ThmorKol protest leaders who is currently receiving direct coaching by PBO (though LICARDO) one day per month. Thus ChrayNim is considered to by PBO to be one of their community peace-builders – someone who has been trained by the people PBO have trained and mobilised. ChrayNim described the PBO training as being very significant –the most helpful training she has ever received. She also said that she really appreciates the relational way that PBO work. Her relationship with PBO is much deeper than the relationship she has with any other organisation. This is quite statement, given the dealings that ChrayNim has had with so many higher profile organisations. ChrayNim described four key changes she has experienced as a result of the PBO training: 1) Her personal life has become much more peaceful. 2) She has been able to provide peace building training to other members casino spiele of the ThmorKol community. 3) She has learnt a new, much more effective strategy for her advocacy work. Many of the protests that she has been part of have ended in violence. Often this was the protestors’ strategy. They tried to break police lines and they didn’t care if they got hurt or if the police got hurt. In previous protests, protestors have been beaten by police batons and shocked by electric prods. A lot of protestors have been injured, but this has not helped to resolve the issue. Since they have been trained in the skills taught by PBO, community activists have adopted new tactics. They no longer charge police lines. They send a community representative to negotiate with the police while the rest of the crowd remains still. They no longer criticise the police either. As a result, the police have responded respectfully to the protestors and have allowed them to present their petitions (before, when the protests were violent, the protestors were not permitted to present their petitions). At a recent protest, where the protesters met in Democracy Park to engage in a mass meditation for peace, the protesters were even able to share with the police their reasons for engaging in in theprotests. 4) There is now much less internal conflict amongst the ThmorKol protestors. ChrayNim had found herself in conflict with some of the other protest leaders, particularly one of the key female protest leaders who is still in prison. Recently, ChrayNim has used some of the skills and knowledge she has obtained through the PBO training to reconcile with this woman. ChrayNim’s story is becoming quite well known. ChrayNim’s story (dated 9 Feb 2014) is on the website of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (http://apwld.org/iam-ready-to-die-to-keep-my-home/) 2 March 2015 – Visit to BoreiKeila BoreiKeila is the site of another high profile Phnom Penh forced eviction case. A press release by LICADHO, dated 3 January 2012, gives some of the background to this case (for the full text of the press release see http://www.licadhocambodia.org/pressrelease.php?perm=267). In early 2003, a “land-sharing” arrangement was proposed for BoreiKeila, which allowed the well-connected construction company, Phanimex, to develop part of the area for commercial purposes while providing housing to the residents on the remaining land. Phanimex was obligated to build 10 apartment buildings on two hectares of land for the villagers in return for obtaining ownership of an additional 2.6 hectares for commercial development. In April 2010, Phanimex unilaterally reneged on the agreement, however – with the approval of the government – and only constructed eight buildings. That left 300 BoreiKeila families excluded from the original agreement – and still living in housing on the site. These were the homes that Phanimex representatives destroyed today [3 January 2012]. … The demolition was carried out by Phanimex employees and paid workers alongside an excavator, which crushed houses before residents had the opportunity to clear out their belongings. The process was overseen by over 100 mixed police forces whoarrested and detained eight community representatives, including one minor who were taken to the main police commissioner and three bodyguards who were taken to an unknown location. Police also fired tear gas and live ammunition on the residents of BoreiKeila. Human rights monitors on site witnessed workers using a jackhammer to break up a large rock surrounding a group of police officers, who then took the stones and threw those at residents. Some also attacked residents with sticks. At least 12 people were injured including one policeman, some seriously. “This eviction shows once again the Cambodia”s political and economic elite can operate with absolute impunity, without regard to the law,” said Tim Malay, President of CYN. “There was a legally-binding contract that obligated Phanimex to build 10 buildings. They only built eight buildings. Instead of being forced to abide by the terms of the contract, they are allowed not only to destroy people”s homes, but to do it with the assistance of government officials. This is so bad.” After the homes of the 380 excluded familieswere destroyed on 3 January 2012(the demolitions actually involved more families than the 300 initially reported by LICADHO), the families were deported and dumped at one of two resettlement locations on the fringes of Phnom Penh – Phnom Bat (45km away) and Toul Sambo (30km away). At Phnom Bat, the relocated families were given 10 sheets of iron (many of which were holed and leaky), four posts, a tarp, and some food (25 kg of rice, soy sauce fish sauce, msg, and a cooking pot). They were also given a small amount of cash, but the amounts given varied for no apparent reason. Some families were given USD 120, some USD 100 and some only USD 25. Both relocation sites lacked water, electricity, sanitation, were far from schools, hospitals and job opportunities. Because the relocation options provided were so unsuitable, some families refused to accept relocation and have moved back to BoreiKeila into the rubbish dump beside the eight existing tenement buildings. LICADHO have posted a video on their website, dated 6 October 2014, which gives more background to this issue. The video is worth watching and contains some powerful images (http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/video.php?perm=49). ChoumNgam isa member of the community-based protest movement in BoreiKeila. ChoumNgam is married and has an adopted son who is 16 y.o. She lives with her husband in theBoreiKeila rubbish dump. Her son lives with her sister, as it is not safe in the rubbish dump for children. ChoumNgam works locally as a motorbike taxi driver (an unusual job for a woman in Phnom Penh) and her husband work as a porkdelivery man. ChoumNgam has been arrested twice for protesting about her treatment by Phanimex. She was imprisoned for one night (the first time) and five days (the second time). Recently, it appears that the protesters efforts may be making some gains. AlthoughPhanimexis still refusing to honour its agreement with the community to build 2 more tenement blocks to house the people currently living in the rubbish dump, the protesters have been negotiating with the government to buy flats in the already constructed tenements when they come up for sale and provide these flats to the people who are yet to be housed. Plus, the protestors would also like some additional compensation for all their suffering and hardship. ChoumNgam said the government is considering buying the flats and they have created a waiting list. ChoumNgam is on this list. Alternatively, the government has offered to relocate her to Andong (a third location, also some distance from central Phnom Penh). The years of struggle against Phanimex and the government has taken its toll on the community though. ChoumNgam said that there are now many broken relationship within the community. Some of the reasons for this include:  In the rush to get involved and help, some civil society and advocacy NGOs who championed the cause of the BoreiKeila evictees did not take the time to understand the community politics. Some self appointed “community activist leaders” have TEAR Australia – Partnership Visit Report Ka Sras is a member of the Kuy tribe, the traditional inhabitants of the Prey Lang Forest. The forest is of great economic and cultural significance to the Kuy people. Kuy villagers have traditionally gained a significant part of their livelihoods from gathering NFTPs and hunting in the forest. Whist many Kuy farm, growing paddy and other crops, NFTPs and forest animals still form a significant part of their diet and income. Forest leaves are also used to make organic fertilizer that is used in the rice fields. Sras explained that there has been a lot of illegal logging taking place in the Prey Lang Forest around Kampong Thom. Sra has been working with the Community Peacebuilding Network to protect the forest for about 10 years now. Over the years, there have been several violent confrontations between loggers, activists and police. Sra recalled an incident where Kuy people had been locked out by a logging company, so they charged police lines to gain access to their forest. Sras was quick to point out, though, that the police are often very helpful to the Kuy activists when the activists can show the correct paper work to demonstrate the illegality of the logging. Police are also human too, Sras joked. Sra told the story of the time that she was arrested in Phnom Penh along with 20 other Kuy for handing out leaflets about the logging in Prey Lang. The police questioned her for long time, but she politely explained that she was concerned for the forest, for the future of her children, and for the future of the country and the world. She explained that the forest was important for everyone. Eventually, the police agreed to let her go. As she was leaving the police station, the police officer she had been talking to asked her where she was staying in Phnom Penh. Sra replied that she had nowhere to go, she had been so upset about what was happening to the forest that she just went straight to Phnom Penh to join the protest without making any further plans. “So where will you eat tonight?” the officer asked. Sras said she didn’t know, as she didn’t have any money. The officer then gave her $30 for food and accommodation from his own pocket and gave her a ride on the police moto back the protest site! Sras was asked to describe how the training she is receiving from PBO might be of use to her in protecting the forest from illegal logging, and in helping herself and her community in general. She said that she hopes that it will be an extra tool that she can use when dealing with illegal loggers. In the past she was much more aggressive than she is now, which only resulted in creating tension between the loggers, police and the protesters. Now when the PLCN members find some illegal logging going on in the forest they quickly organise a large but peaceful group of Kuy people to give the loggers a letter of warning. The loggers usually agree to leave. The problem is that they often return once the Kuy delegation leaves. Sras said that she has found that the training has also ben of use when she relates to other members of the PLCN. There has been quite a lot of conflict within PLCN about the way that they should go about protecting the forest and about the way that the work load is shared out. The empathetic listening skills theta PBO has taught have been very useful in this context. TEAR Australia – Partnership Visit Report TEAR Australia – Partnership Visit Report Click here to download PDF file


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