About 300 farmers and some civil society organisations yesterday launched a campaign to celebrate Human Rights Day in Svay Rieng province, where they appealed to the government and local authorities to attend to the basic needs of farmers, resolve land issues and promote human rights and democracy.
From yesterday to December 10, about 7,000 members of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, in collaboration with authorities and NGOs, are organising events in Preah Sihanouk, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Tboung Khmum, Kandal, and Kampot provinces and the capital to mark the 70th International Human Rights Day with the theme “Redefine a better basic rights together”.
The events include public forums to discuss human rights issues and petitioning local authorities to address these issues.
CCFC president Theng Savoeun said yesterday that the celebrations, which started in Svay Chrum district’s Chhou Teal commune, aim to unite farmers who are facing land issues to push for the respect of human rights and allow them the opportunity to raise issues of rights violations with local authorities and the government.
“Because there are no solutions to problems facing some local communities yet, we organised the celebration to urge authorities to solve these issues immediately,” he said.
Mr Savoeun also urged authorities and the government to facilitate and collaborate with NGOs and people to develop human rights in accordance with the constitution and international standards.
He requested the government to include farmers in the informal economy sector so that they can receive social protection as workers and solve land issues for the people based on legal principles and basic human rights.
Mr Savoeun also suggested that the government increase the national budget for agriculture to support farmers in addressing some challenges including food insecurity, migration, farmer markets and irrigation systems.
Ms Yous Sophorn, a Samaki Chek Meas community representative in the province, said that there is still no solution to land issues, leading to migrations from the province.
She also complained about restrictions placed by the authorities when farmers gather at ministries or institutions to protest about land issues.
“Most of our farmers here want a resolution to land dispute over the development of a reservoir and want full rights to protest about this issue as is allowed by the law,” she said.
Commune chief Nong Sary, who also participated in the celebration, said that Cambodia respects human rights, including granting the freedom of expression, holding gatherings and the right to unrestricted travel.
“Cambodians are also free to run any business in accordance with the law,” she said. “They can wear and eat anything they want, unlike during the Khmer Rouge era.”