Text and photo: Jan Nordlander
Government Offices of Sweden
The first dialogue about human rights between Sweden and Cambodia took place at the end of February in Phnom Penh. The theme was land rights. The participants made a field visit to the place to which families from a slum area in the city had been forced to move by being evicted. They were given an opportunity to speak both to those who had received new housing and those who had become homeless.
The UN estimates that around 100 000 people in Cambodia have been forced to move from their land in the last ten years, and that at least as many will be evicted in the next few years. Although compensation is given, poor people in urban slum areas are primarily affected. In the mountain areas, traditional ways of life in entire societies are threatened by collapse when owners are forced to leave their property through expropriation.
The humanitarian situation of the homeless important
The Swedish delegation urged the Cambodian authorities to take measures to alleviate the humanitarian situation of the homeless and to investigate the abuses claimed to have taken place during the evictions. The delegation also urged the authorities to establish guidelines for future evictions together with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (COHCHR), should such evictions be necessary.
Other discussions covered legislative work in human rights, the fight against corruption and impunity, measures to prevent torture, the conditions of work of NGOs and the trials of the Khmer Rouge.
Sweden is to examine the possibility of supporting Cambodia in its work on human rights, including training officials, reporting to the UN Human Rights Committees and upgrading Cambodia's national committee for human rights.