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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 07:28 GMT
Cambodia protest over land grabs
By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Protester in Phnom Penh ( 10th Dec)
The protest was held to mark International Human Rights Day
Several communities in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, are marking International Human Rights Day by protesting against forced evictions.

Thousands of families have already been moved from slums in the capital to sites outside the city, and other communities face the same fate.

The UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Yash Ghai, has strongly criticised the evictions.

He says he believes the country's human rights situation is deteriorating.

'Enormously corrupt'

On the banks of the Bassac River, members of more than a dozen threatened communities made a show of defiance.

They wore white T-shirts with the slogan "stop evictions" written in Khmer and English, and a young woman from the community read what they called the Tonle Bassac Declaration - a plea to have their rights respected.

The demonstrations coincided with the final day of the visit of the United Nations Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Yash Ghai.

UN envoy Yash Ghai (R) in Phnom Penh on 10 December 2007, with US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli (L)
UN envoy Yash Ghai (R) has voiced concern about land rights violations
It is Yash Ghai's fourth mission to the country, and this time he has been paying special attention to the issues of land grabs and evictions.

Mr Ghai says that poor people all over Cambodia are losing their land to the rich and powerful and that well-connected land-grabbers can operate with impunity because of the weakness of the judicial system.

He also accuses international donors of failing to use their influence and says he is concerned the situation will get worse.

"There's an enormous amount of suffering," he said. "People are extremely anxious and fearful of the police and the courts, who are very much part of this system for the appropriation of land. So the whole legal system has become enormously corrupt."

The government has acknowledged there is a problem with land-grabbing.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has stepped in on several occasions to order well-connected people to hand back land. He has also promised to sack any government officials involved.

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06 Nov 07 |  Asia-Pacific
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08 Aug 07 |  Business
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25 Oct 07 |  Country profiles
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