Re: Seng Sarorn, community leader

Re: Seng Sarorn, community leader

To: H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia

From: Gail Davidson,Executive Director of LRWC

Date: 2007-07-15

LRWC is deeply disturbed about reports of the shooting death of Mr. Seng Sarorn in his home in the village of Sre Kor, Stung Treng Province, on July 4, 2007. Mr. Seng Sarorn, age 44, was a community leader in Sre Kor village and a member of the Culture and Environment Preservation Association (CEPA). He was a human rights defender working to address rights of community members in disputes involving forestry, fishery, and land issues. Mr. Sarorn had recently been involved in community protests concerning land concessions given by authorities to the Sal Sophea Pheanich Company.

We are aware of concerns expressed in March 2007 by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) that land concessions have been made contrary to the Land Law and contrary to the rights of indigenous peoples. We are also aware of reports that local officials and soldiers have been hired as security guards by concession companies, and that these security guards have made threats to arrest villagers involved in peaceful assemblies to express their grievances.

Given these circumstances, we are extremely concerned about allegations that government officials have failed to make a proper investigation of the shooting death of Mr. Seng Sarorn. We understand that provincial Military Police arrived at the crime scene immediately after the killing and that there are concerns about improper investigation resulting in contamination of the crime scene. There are also reports that persons from the Sal Sophea Peanich Company may have interfered with the police investigation.

LRWC is increasingly alarmed about ongoing patterns of human rights violations in Cambodia, including threats against human rights defenders and the failure of authorities to conduct proper investigations.

We note that Cambodia has ratified all key international human rights conventions and that the Constitution of Cambodia ensures full protection of international human rights in Cambodia. We draw to your attention the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998. Article 1 of the Declaration states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.” Article 9.5 states that “the State shall conduct a prompt and impartial investigation or ensure that an inquiry takes place whenever there is reasonable ground to believe that a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms has occurred in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

Therefore, we urge the Royal Government to insist that authorities conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Mr. Seng Sarorn in order to identify all those responsible and to bring them to justice according to the law. We also urge your government to put a stop to all harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Cambodia.