Monday, October 4, 2010

ANV in Cambodia

Cambodia is a beautiful country filled with natural resources and amazing people. But many communities are under attack for their land, fisheries, forests and other natural resources. Cambodian communities are learning to make use of active nonviolent resistance and this video shows a small part of their journey.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Intimidation and Legal Threats Against Union Workers and Leaders Must Cease

American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) and Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

Joint Media Statement
Intimidation and Legal Threats Against Union Workers and Leaders Must Cease
We, the undersigned organizations, are deeply disappointed with the government’s actions to intimidate and threaten workers and union members who have joined the four-day-garment strike from September 13-16, 2010.
The government’s response to this entirely legal – and long-declared – strike has included attacks on protesters, legal threats against organizers, and the court-sponsored retaliation against union members. This must stop immediately if the two sides are to reach an agreement during upcoming talks on September 27.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mass Worker Strikes Demand Wage Rise in Cambodia

CAMBODIA. Tonight unions and human rights organisations estimate 159,850 garment factory workers struck all around the country today as daily numbers of striking workers increase since Monday. The first day of industrial action saw 53 factories striking totaling 120,000 workers. Fifty-eight thousand workers were prevented from entering the city to join their fellow workers in meetings around the capital of Phnom Penh.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 11 – A Time to Mourn and Celebrate

Once again we approach a momentous date. A time to remember when the world changed.

A Time for Mourning
On first glance we are reminded of a date nine years ago focused on the centers of economic and military might of the United States of America.
     We are called to mourn the loss of lives, both those in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; and also the soldiers who have died, and continue to die, in the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
     We are called to mourn the loss of Iraqi and Afghani men, women and children who have perished in almost countless numbers.
     We mourn the loss of civil freedoms as a result of many countries passing terrible laws allowing for torture and unending imprisonment of suspects and alleged enemy combatants, as well as racial profiling, phone-tapping and the new military mantra of pre-emptive strike.
     We mourn the ongoing financial burden these wars place on the citizens of the United States, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fear-mongering required to perpetuate a desire for security in the guise of technology and weaponry; hatred and exclusion.

A Time for Celebration
     Giving the date another look we will find something quite different; a call to hope, bravery and a vision of the immense power of people resisting evil in all it's forms. On September 11, 1906, Mohandas K. Gandhi, a young lawyer, gave a speech that changed history. It was his inauguration speech for satyagraha at the Empire Theatre in South Africa. At that time, South Africa was a colonial outpost of the British Empire. Given the racist and unjust treatment of Indians Gandhi took it upon himself to lead nonviolent action to overturn laws that were unfair, unjust, and dehumanizing. This speech is dramatized in the film "Gandhi" and you can watch the satyagraha speech here.

     In 1906 Gandhi was a little-known failed lawyer on the margins of the world's biggest Empire. But he came to realise that there was power in Truth which he named satyagraha (truth force). The tactics he used were not passive, as many think of nonviolence. He intentionally went out of his way, asking others to do likewise, to push the issues of injustice to the forefront of public life. By refusing to carry identification papers he forced the police and government to respond - often through beatings and imprisonment. By marching thousands of out-of-work miners across state borders he forced the government to respond. With prisons full and Indians unwilling to cooperate with the government there was little choice but to accede to his demands.

     His creative use of persuasion, noncooperation and nonviolent intervention, in South Africa and India, included economic boycotts on British-made cloth and direct challenges to monopoly laws forbidding Indians to make salt in their own country, blazing the way for today's nonviolent activists.

     While we rightly mourn with those who have lost so much since September 11, 2001 we remember with hope that there is a better way to solve our conflicts and achieve justice and freedom. We can still fight, but our weapons are not made from metal and explosives, but from the strategic and collective use of nonviolent tactics as well as our undying search for Truth.
     Finally, we would do to remember that behind (and in front of) Gandhi were hundreds of thousands of people willing to suffer hardship for a better world where all have their basic needs met, and are respected as equal partners of humanity.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Awareness and Training Enhance Choice for Nonviolent Action

My assumption and heart-felt belief is that most people in most situations would prefer to choose nonviolence over violence to resolve conflict - regardless of faith, race, or socio-economic status. The limiting factor is awareness of the range of nonviolent tactics available for engaging conflict in many situations, including some of the most violent situations humanity has known, and the way in which these tactics create dynamics that successfully lead to greater peace, justice and freedom.

While many philosophical, ideological and theological arguments rage over why war or violence may well be justified, what is often missing is a clear understanding of the range of nonviolent options at our disposal, and hence, the opportunity to continually pursue nonviolent means. There are many studies on the application of what is sometimes referred to as "pragmatic" nonviolence because of it's attention to the application of tactics and strategies, rather than focusing on changing people's motivation for action. Personally, while I am motivated by an inner desire and spiritual journey to engage conflict nonviolently, I am convinced that it is possible to persuade others of the effectiveness of nonviolence by increasing awareness and building skills in nonviolent conflict as a starting point, rather than from complex, though meaningful, arguments of the rightness of nonviolence.

Gandhi is probably the most well-known name connected to nonviolence, but very little is known about him beyond that. Following him we might be able to list off a small number of other names such as Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks and perhaps a few others. Again we probably know little beyond their names and that they were good people or championed justice. We probably don't have an understanding of the specifics of their contexts, why they chose nonviolent action, and the specific tactics they used and the reasons for choosing those tactics over others. Nonviolence becomes quickly boiled down to "being nice to everyone" and "turning the other cheek" as we remember that many of these names ended up being reviled, beaten or assassinated at some point. Obviously they refused to fight back, we assume (wrongly).

There is a growing body of knowledge in the area of nonviolence. At it's most basic, nonviolent civilian resistance understands that: “when the people deprive the oppressor of their consent it reduces his/her legitimacy; when enough people refuse to cooperate, they increase the cost of holding control; [and] when the system's legitimacy drops and its costs rise, its enforcers doubt its endurance.” [1]

Nonviolence scholar Gene Sharp arranged nonviolent tactics into three broad categories: protest and persuasion, non-cooperation and nonviolent interventions. These include such tactics as:
(persuasion) speeches, petitions, mock awards, use of symbols like flags and ribbons, humour, satire, and music; (non-cooperation) boycotts, strikes, suspension of various normal activities like sports, stay-at-home, slow-downs, withholding rent, and providing sanctuary to political fugitives; (nonviolent intervention) fasting, sit-ins, nonviolent raids, nonviolent land-seizure, provoking imprisonment and harsh or violent treatment, and parallel institutions. For a more exhaustive treatment see http://www.aeinstitute.org.

Other scholars are helping us understand the dynamics of nonviolent conflict, that is, why nonviolence is effective against violence at all. It is counter-intuitive that someone armed with a commitment to simply not use violence, no matter what, could defeat someone armed with a gun - yet they repeatedly do. One such dynamic is called "backfire", or "the paradox of repression". This dynamic refers to the seemingly innate desire of humans to resist control, repression and violence. As violent regimes (of all persuasions) increase their usage of violent domination the populous reaches a tipping point of pent-up frustration and temporarily repress their very real fears of imprisonment, torture or death to take to the streets and engage in civil disobedience and other, often spontaneous, nonviolent tactics. The more training they have in nonviolent resistance the more persistent and likely to succeed they will be. It is the ultimate irony. Regimes using violent and domineering tactics hasten their demise. Knowing this, nonviolent civil resisters can make effective use of this dynamic.

New research helps us understand not only the tactics and dynamics, but also the "hard facts" about the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance. Until recently nonviolence was studied exclusively through case-study analysis, which has wrought important information. Empirical research is now backing up what was being assumed: that nonviolent conflict is more efficient and effective than violent conflict [2]. In another study on the manner in which insurrections end researchers found that it was not through effective military operations, but through careful diplomatic efforts to include the aggrieved parties in political processes and addressing their core complaints [3]. Yet another study gives four significant findings about nonviolent civilian resistance:

“First, “people power” movements matter, because nonviolent civic forces are a major source of pressure for decisive change in most transitions. ... Second, there is comparatively little positive effect for freedom in “top-down” transitions that were launched and led by elites. ... Third, the presence of strong and cohesive nonviolent civic coalitions is the most important of the factors examined in contributing to freedom. … Fourth, the data suggests that the prospects for freedom are significantly enhanced when the opposition does not itself use violence.” [4].

These findings point to several benefits of nonviolent conflict, or civilian resistance as it is also referred to, that it promotes and requires broad-based, bottom-up, civilian input leading towards more just and democratic decision-making processes and greater freedom for societies, and that nonviolence is a major force for change towards freedom. This is a clear demonstration of the dynamic of "means and ends equivalency". That is, in nonviolence the path one chooses is just as important as the end goal in mind.

There are many obstacles to nonviolent civilian resistance. The first is lack of awareness and understanding of the tactics, strategies, dynamics and research. Secondly, many conflict situations actively work against the promotion of nonviolent resistance. Thirdly, people are not clean slates and have prior experiences that can predispose them to choose violence such as deep-seated hatred of their opponents, a sense of futility, and sense of great urgency requiring immediate and decisive action, or worse, inaction. Fourthly, most aid and development agencies have little understanding of nonviolent resistance themselves and often promote strategies that undermine this approach, or are afraid of the repercussions to funding or government approval if they promote civilian resistance. These are significant, but not insurmountable, problems.

Once populations are exposed to the practical applications of nonviolence there is an opening for deepening their understanding of why what just happened worked so well. In many cases months and years of deep violence has ended in a few days of open nonviolent action. Gandhi believed deeply that if just one person, completely devoted to nonviolent action, held out success was assured. This may seem hard to believe, but the evidence clearly shows that nonviolence is a force more powerful than we often assume.

Notes
[1] Jack DuVall (2010) The Dynamics of Civil Resistance, recorded presentation. http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/
[2] Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth (2008). Why Civil Resistance Works. The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
[3] Seth G. Jones and Martin C. Libicki (2008). How Terrorist Groups End. Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida.
[4] Freedom House (2005). How Freedom is Won. From Civic Resistance to Durable Democracy.

Key Sources:
The Albert Einstein Institute. http://aeinstitute.org
The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. http://nonviolent-conflict.org
Michael Nagler's UC Berkley courses on Introduction to Nonviolence and Nonviolence for Today available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4F8kJchX4I.
A Force More Powerful. A four-part documentary series on nonviolent resistance movements in the twentieth century. www.aforcemorepowerful.org.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cambodia and the Way of Nonviolence

by Chris Baker Evens
April, 2010


In Cambodia rampant economic development is fuelling discontent and creating social, economic and cultural upheaval through forced evictions, loss of natural resources and an inaccessible legal system. Cambodians are fighting back using active nonviolence.


The reality of conflict (1) and violence (2) in Cambodia, especially over land and natural resources, but also within communities and families, is a daily reality for hundreds of thousands of Cambodians. Communities are frustrated with the lack of responsiveness by local, provincial and national authorities to listen and act on their concerns, resulting in a number of communities resorting to threats and violence. The subtext is, "we know we are going to lose, but we're not going down without a fight!"


In addition, there are a range of country characteristics (3) for Cambodia suggesting that a time of national choice will come, when the frustrations over structural violence will boil over the cultural values of maintaining relational harmony and respect for authority. The country is held together by a strongly centralised and authoritarian political structure that is more oligarchy than democracy. A recent report (Roads to Development, Meas Nee and Wayne McCallum, 2009) suggests that Cambodian authorities have been able to subsume the language of democracy and development into existing structures of corruption gaining international recognition as a successful post-conflict democracy and access to ongoing financial aid. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Community Petition Parade

This morning at 6:30am 200 community "activists" prepared to walk the short distance from Wat Botum to the Prime Minister's offices in the center of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Dozens of riot police were dispatched to prevent the action, designed to highlight the plight of Cambodia's many tens of thousands of people affected by unrestrained economic interests. Around the country economic and land concessions are awarded to national and international companies to "develop" Cambodia. In turn over one hundred thousand people are at risk of forced evictions, environmental degradation, loss of livelihood and cultural continuity.

While riot police attempted to intimidate the peaceful group, individuals, notably older women approached the heavily armed police and tried a sly nonviolent tactic called "rehumanisation". One woman implored a security officer to call her "mother-in-law" to show that they were both from the same Cambodian "family". In response his face turned bright red with embarrassment. The absurdity of the heavily armed response to a peaceful group armed only with a petition of 60,000 signatures obviously dawned on him.

In terms of "effectiveness" this action has several points worth reflecting. Any action that provokes a response has some intrinsic effectiveness as it is obviously pushing a button that the powers-that-be do not like to be pushed. If this issue or group of people were talking about a "politically safe" issue there would not have been the police response. On the other hand, Cambodia has tightly controlled protest regulations. While public protests are not technically illegal, municipal authorities demand groups arrange "permission" ahead of time. A public gathering, then, can simply be a statement of resistance to such a practice, not necessarily the issue being raised.

I am aware that officials from the Prime Minister's Office did in fact arrive to collect the petition (instead of allowing the group to march the less than one kilometer from the pagoda to their offices). This marks an important action-moment for the group. On the one hand officialdom has publicly acknowledged their grievance, on the other hand they have potentially removed the source of tension, depending on the group's demands and goals. Were they simply after the successful handing over of a petition? In which case they are successful but real change is unlikely. Or are they demanding real resolution to the raised issues that, unless acted on, will be followed up by further nonviolent actions until a full, transparent and acceptable response by the government has been made? In which case it's too early to say if there has been success. The history of nonviolent action in Cambodia so far is mixed. At the local level there have been some impressive successes. On the national level very few. However, this continues to provide an opportunity for Cambodian peoples of all ethnicities, religions and language groups to express their ongoing desire for protection of the land, natural resources and human, cultural and economic rights.

Photo by Moses Ngeth

Thursday, May 6, 2010

50 Villagers Protest Activist Detention

CAMBODIA. 14 land activists detained on Monday in Siem Reap province were released on bail today after more than 50 villagers camped in front of the provincial court house.

According to human rights groups Siem Reap province has the highest number of jailed land activists in the country.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Evictees living in squalor again

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Photo by: Will Baxter
Borei Keila resident Prak Sophea, 49, sits in a wall-less, ground-floor dwelling where she has lived since being evicted from an apartment. She is waiting to be assigned a home by the government.
SUN-BAKED rubbish and raw sewage amalgamate in the lane that runs past Prak Sophea’s wall-less dwelling, threatening to spill into the space she has been forced to occupy with another family since being evicted on Sunday from temporary housing in Prampi Makara district.

“I cannot bear the bad sanitation, especially when it is raining,” she said. She explained that poor drainage results in flooding that sends sewage into her new home.

The 49-year-old widow, who learned in 1998 that she was HIV-positive, had been occupying a ground-floor room in a dilapidated building in the district’s Borei Keila community since June 2009, waiting for City Hall and a private development company to give her permanent housing. The company, Phanimex, has been tasked with providing on-site relocation units for 11 HIV-affected families, including Prak Sophea’s, who were evicted from prime real estate in front of the Ministry of Tourism building last year to make way for a public garden.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Officials chart disputed land in Omlaing


OFFICIALS in Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune on Tuesday began measuring plots of land owned by families embroiled in a land dispute with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, though some residents refused to allow the measurements, which they said would not include sections of land already cleared by the company.

Boeung Kak protesters seek Chea Sim’s help


VILLAGERS who fear they will lose their homes to a controversial development project at Boeung Kak lake say they are holding out hope that officials will intervene and award them titles to their disputed land.

Thirty villagers from the Boeung Kak lake area protested in front of the Senate on Tuesday, a day after being denied a meeting with senior officials at Phnom Penh’s City Hall. The protesters said they hoped Senate President Chea Sim would step in to resolve the dispute, which housing rights advocates believe could see roughly 4,000 families evicted to make way for a development.

Village land negotiator slain

Villagers say slaying tied to land disputes


A 60-YEAR-OLD man in Battambang province was shot and killed on Monday night by four unknown assailants in an attack that villagers linked to land disputes that stretch back to 2007.

Pich Sophon, a representative of families living in Chamlan Romeang Lea village in Battambang’s Samlot district, had been instrumental in advocating on behalf of 141 families involved in three land disputes – two with military officials in Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Region 5 and another with an unidentified Korean company, villagers and a rights worker said.

Preah Sihanouk farmers plan protest

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Photo by: Heng Chivon
Hour Chrib, 35, looks out over disputed farmland in Kampong Speu province on Monday.

FARMERS in Preah Sihanouk province said Tuesday that they are preparing to file a complaint with Kampong Seila district Governor Kheng Teng over a land dispute involving an NGO that provides assistance to the disabled.

On Monday, the farmers squared off on two separate occasions with workers from the Kampong Speu-based Cambodia Disabled Survivors’ Association, though officials intervened both times to prevent violence.

The NGO says it has been awarded land in Kampong Speu, Kampot and Preah Sihanouk provinces that is also claimed by the farmers, who were preparing to plant rice on Monday.

Lake plan prompts protest

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya
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Photo by: Pha Lina
Boeung Kak lake residents protest in front of City Hall on Monday.

ROUGHLY 50 protesters who say they face eviction due to development work at Boeung Kak lake gathered in front of City Hall on Monday after learning that authorities had approved plans for the controversial project behind closed doors.

The protesters decried the fact that city officials have approved development plans before many of the roughly 4,000 families that stand to be affected have finalised compensation arrangements.

“We need land titles for our homes, and we want the development to be fair and transparent,” said protester Lim Samnang.

He added that the demonstrators became particularly alarmed after hearing that the development plans, which have never been publicly released, could be closer to completion. Officials told the Post on Sunday that the plans were approved during a private meeting last Thursday.

NGO, farmers at an impasse


ROUGHLY 100 farmers from Kampong Speu, Preah Sihanouk and Kampot provinces squared off yesterday on two separate occasions with an NGO that claims to own land they have cultivated in previous years, though officials intervened and prevented the altercation from spilling over into violence, witnesses said.

Mou Savoeung, a representative of the farmers, said they arrived at a section of the disputed land in Preah Sihanouk’s Kampong Seila district with three tractors early on Monday intending to prepare rice fields for planting. She said workers from the NGO, the Kampong Speu-based Cambodia Disabled Survivors’ Association, had been at the site and tried to obstruct their access to it, which led to the standoff.

Military Base: Protest over land dispute called off


Military Base
Villagers in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district called off a protest scheduled for Monday, after the district governor promised to meet with them to resolve the issue, a representative said. The villagers had planned to express anger at the construction of a military base on disputed land. “We decided not to have our demonstration after the district governor asked us not to do it, and promised us that he would help us reach a compromise and inform us about it on Tuesday,” said Long Than, who added that he and eight others met with district officials on Saturday. The district governor, Prek Vary, could not be reached Monday. Long Than said the proposed base could displace about 100 families who have lived there since 1993.

[note: in terms of nonviolent resistance this is a very risky move by the villagers. They have removed the incentive for change. It takes a lot of guts for a community to protest in Cambodia, and it takes a lot of time and frustration to get there. By calling off the demonstration without any concrete evidence of getting a "compromise" they've clearly reneged control of the conflict to the district governor for the moment. This is a very common result. With little or no training in NVR and next to no free press, the community is very much on it's own.]

Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010042738151/National-news/military-base-protest-over-land-dispute-called-off.html

Monday, April 26, 2010

Residents of Borei Keila refuse to occupy new relocation housing

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Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Long Sem, 49, sits in his home in Borei Keila on Wednesday. More than 120 families in the community have refused to accept housing that was inaugurated by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chukteman.

PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on Wednesday presided over a ceremony marking the opening of onsite relocation housing in Prampi Makara district’s Borei Keila community, but more than 120 families slated to move in say rooms in the building are too small and have refused to register for them.

The new building, designed to house 174 families, is part of a redevelopment project funded by the private developer Phanimex.

City Hall has promised free housing to families that are being relocated to the building in exchange for the valuable inner-city land they currently occupy. Phanimex has been promised a portion of that land in exchange for constructing the relocation housing.

Nuth Sokly, a representative of the 124 families who have declined to relocate, said they were upset that the new housing was significantly smaller than their current homes, and claimed it lacked electricity and water.

Borei Keila families petition Hun Sen for better housing

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Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Sin Sambath, 51, moves into his new home on the first floor of a building offering on-site relocation housing in the central Phnom Penh community of Borei Keila on Sunday.

MORE than 120 families facing eviction from their homes in Phnom Penh’s central Borei Keila community sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday requesting either US$40,000 in compensation or $20,000 and ground-floor apartments measuring 4 metres by 12 metres, representatives said Sunday.

The families have so far refused to register for on-site relocation housing offered by City Hall, saying the units in the building – which was opened on April 7 – are too small, and that those who do not receive ground-floor apartments will be unable to support themselves by running businesses out of their homes.


[note: refusing to participate in the ballot is an all-or-nothing gamble for these families. The City has a history of waiting out the resisters until there are so few left nonviolent resistance can easily be ignored or swept aside. This community is showing courage. Do they have the strategy to go beyond this?]

“They promised to provide us with 4-metre-by-12-metre [homes] with electricity and water supplied, but now they want to provide us with only 3.8-metre-by-9-metre [homes] without electricity or water,” said representative Nuth Sokly. “How can we accept it?”

Both sides threaten violence in land spat


REPRESENTATIVES of around 400 residents of Kampot, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Speu provinces said Sunday that villagers are prepared for a standoff today with an NGO they say has made an illegitimate claim to their farmland, and that they will not shy away from violence.
 

[note: For many communities access to a fair hearing and a deep belief that justice will prevail, no matter how well connected (or disconnected) you may be, is almost non-existant. A look through recent reports of communities resisting land grabs and natural resource alienation will see frustration boiling over into violence. It's understandable, but ultimately an exercise in failure. Those who grab land and natural resources are invariably well connected politically, economically, and with the police, military and the legal system. A few villagers wielding knives is only going to strengthen the resolve of the CDSA and other 'authorities' who see their role as "preserving the peace". The need for communities skilled in nonviolent resistance is at an all-time high or an uncontrollable spillover of anger and violence may occur in the future. Stay tuned for an up-coming article entitled, "Why Cambodia is Ripe for Nonviolence".]

Secrecy remains as city passes lake plans

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Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
A lakeside resident calls out to friends on the other side of a pipe as it begins pumping sand into Boeung Kak in August 2008.

PHNOM PENH authorities have approved development plans for a controversial real estate project at Boeung Kak lake, a city official said Sunday, as some observers continued to decry government secrecy surrounding a project that could displace thousands of families.

Mann Chhoeun, the city’s deputy governor, said officials approved plans for the development of Boeung Kak lake during a meeting Thursday – a decision that was reached behind closed doors.

He added that the plan will now be sent to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), the investment board chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has final say on developments of this scale.

Govt unveils plans for public housing project


GOVERNMENT officials say they are in the process of developing a public housing system – the Kingdom’s first since before the Khmer Rouge era – that would see poor families lease houses on state land for periods of up to 50 years.

But housing rights advocates said Wednesday that current plans for the system did not appear to safeguard many poor families from forced eviction.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Officials no-show for land talks


OFFICIALS in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district failed to show up on Wednesday for a meeting scheduled with villagers involved in a land dispute with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, exacerbating suspicisions that they are primarily interested in arriving at a resolution that favours the company.

Ly Yong Phat given land in national park


THE government has granted more than 4,000 hectares of protected national park land in Koh Kong province to an agriculture company owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, who has been at the centre of several land disputes stemming from controversial land concessions.

In accordance with a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and dated March 12, Ly Yong Phat’s company, the LYP Group, has been given a 10,000-hectare Koh Kong land concession, 4,100 hectares of which cuts into Botum Sakor National Park.

Sen Sok residents demonstrate against drainage project plans

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Photo by: Sovan Philong
A spray-painted marking shows the area that must be cleared to make way for a drainage project in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, which residents say could affect the homes of 600 families.

MORE than 100 residents of Sen Sok district’s Phnom Penh Thmei commune on Wednesday gathered outside the Phnom Penh residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen to protest plans for a drainage system that they said could affect the homes of some 600 families.

A representative of the protesters also handed a complaint signed by 129 residents to Nov Ra, an official in Hun Sen’s cabinet.

The protest was staged after local authorities brought bulldozers to the site, leading residents to suspect that work on the drainage system would begin soon.

Yim Sokhom, 58, one of the protesters, said the project – which is set to widen the road by 35 metres – would lead to the partial destruction of some homes and the total destruction of others, and that no compensation had been offered.

Talks address Kampong Speu dispute


Rights groups say not all affected villagers were invited to boundary discussion.
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Photo Supplied by ADHOC
Villagers on Tuesday block a section of a road in Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune as part of a protest related to an ongoing dispute over a land concession.

ABOUT 500 villagers from Omlaing commune in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district met with authorities on Tuesday to discuss setting boundaries between their farmland and land granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, though many who attended said afterwards that they still had concerns about how the dispute would be resolved.

Meanwhile, some 600 villagers continued to block National Road 52 until early in the afternoon to protest what they described as insufficient efforts on the part of the company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, to work towards a resolution to the ongoing land row.

Representatives from the company were not present for Tuesday’s negotiations, which were held at the Omlaing commune office and attended by Deputy Provincial Governor Pen Sambou, Thpong District Governor Tuon Song and Commune Chief Hab Dam.

Land Dispute: Summoned villagers ask for time


Land Dispute
Six village representatives in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district who have been summoned over a land dispute with a company owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat have written a letter to the provincial court asking that they be given more time to hold discussions with local officials. On Friday, the court summoned all six to answer to allegations that they became violent with employees of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, who last week arrived under military police escort to survey the land. The representatives have said they were camping out on the land so that it would not be appropriated by the company. “Today, we are together joining with the provincial police to send a letter to provincial court asking them to settle our problem in our district before taking the case to the court,” said Nov Chhon, one of the representatives. More than 200 families live on land in Omlaing commune that is also part of a 9,000-hectare concession to the company. Khut Sopheang, the prosecutor handling the case, declined to comment on the representatives’ letter on Sunday.

Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010030833231/National-news/land-dispute-summoned-villagers-ask-for-time.html

Kampong Speu villagers awaiting representatives’ release


ABOUT 200 villagers from Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district have vowed to greet two community representatives who are scheduled to be released Monday from Kampong Speu prison and escort them back to their homes, villagers said.

Meanwhile, a group of 400 villagers will be standing by to protest if the pair are not released by authorities as promised.

Court calls 16 Kampong Speu villagers

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Photo by: Photo Supplied
Villagers in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district have been summoned to court to answer questions related to the burning of a Phnom Penh Sugar Company office building, the remains pictured above, last week.

KAMPONG Speu provincial court has summoned 16 villagers from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune to appear in court Wednesday to answer questions related to the burning of an office belonging to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company last week, provincial court officials said.

Court clerk Seng Chamroeun Rith said the summons orders were issued Friday and that the 16 were bound by law to appear. “If they don’t appear in court, the court will issue an arrest warrant for them,” he said.

Since Thursday’s incident, about 100 soldiers have been sent to guard the disputed land, which is part of a 9,000-hectare concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

Khem Vuthy, a villager who received a summons order Monday, said, “I am not afraid, so I will appear in court on time because we were just trying to prevent our rice paddies and farmland from being taken.... The court should settle our problem by finding a middle ground.”

Kampong Speu farmers warned over rallies


Kampong Speu Province
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Photo by: May Titthara
Farmers gather outside Kampong Speu provincial court, where six villagers involved in a land dispute were questioned Thursday.
SIX villagers in Kampong Speu province were questioned in provincial court on Thursday over allegations they incited 1,000 people to protest, prompting claims that authorities are trying to intimidate those involved in a land dispute with a well-known businessman.

The six were accused of inciting villagers during the protest late last month, which saw 1,000 Omlaing commune farmers express concerns that they could lose their rice fields to a sugar company owned by Ly Yong Phat, a senator with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Phal Vannak, an Omlaing commune villager who was among those questioned on Thursday, said court officials ordered him to agree not to incite further protests.

“They ordered us to give thumbprints and stop doing it,” Phal Vannak said through tears. “If I do it again, I will face arrest. They let us go, but I am still afraid.”

Kampong Speu villagers seek firm land boundaries

Tuesday, 20 April 2010 15:02 May Titthara

KAMPONG Speu villagers embroiled in a dispute with Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat met with local officials on Monday to reiterate their demand that clear boundaries be set between their farmland and land granted to the senator’s sugar company.

Meanwhile, about 300 villagers from Omlaing commune staged a protest near the site of the company’s 9,000-hectare land concession, located in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune, with the aim of preventing future clearing operations, villagers said.

On Monday evening, about 400 Omlaing villagers blocked National Road 52 to express their frustration with the company, said Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho. He added that he worried that tension could spill over into violence.

Land disputes flare in Kampong Speu


Kampong Speu Province
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Photo by: Sovan Philong
Villagers armed with clubs and slingshots await the return of police after clashes over land in Kampong Speu province’s Oudong district on Thursday morning.
VIOLENCE erupted Thursday morning in two separate land disputes in Kampong Speu province – one in Oudong district and the other in Thpong district – resulting in the injury of more than 20 villagers and police, as well as the torching of a company’s offices.

An early-morning altercation between authorities and 88 families at Oudong district’s Phnom Touch commune broke out when the authorities tried to carry out a Supreme Court-ordered eviction of the families from a 65-hectare plot of land, villagers said Thursday. Twelve villagers and 14 local police were hurt in the brawl.

At about 6:45am police attempted to forcibly evict the residents so that they could bring in equipment to tear down their houses, but the eviction was thwarted by locals who attacked police with stones and bamboo clubs, and disrupted their advance with burning tyres, villagers said.

The police responded by beating them with batons and firing their weapons in the air and into trees where villagers had displayed photographs of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Kampong Speu villagers protest at Phnom Penh Sugar


AROUND 100 villagers in Kampong Speu province on Tuesday staged a protest in front of the local offices of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, saying company employees operating 11 excavators had encroached on 2 hectares of land in Omlaing commune.

Villagers to appear in court over Kampong Speu row

  
SIX village representatives in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district said they would appear in provincial court today to answer to allegations that they became violent with employees of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, during a series of standoffs last week.

More than 200 families live on land in Omlaing commune , which is also part of a 9,000-hectare concession granted to the company. Ly Yong Phat has said they will not be evicted.

On Monday, the representatives sent a letter to the provincial court to ask to settle the dispute with local officials before today’s session, but Nov Chhon, one of the representatives, said Wednesday that they had received no response.

Nov Chhon added that he would be happy to answer any questions posed to him during the session.

“I will explain to the court the reason why we did not allow company staff to grab our land,” he added, referring to incidents in which company staff appeared along with military police officers in an attempt to survey the land last week.

Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010031133450/National-news/villagers-to-appear-in-court-over-kampong-speu-row.html

Trade in hydropower could support green development

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A man lights up a coal oven for cooking in front of his home in downtown Hanoi on April 15, 2010. Vietnam faces a power shortage this year as a drought threatens production of hydroelectricity amid increased demand for energy. AFP

World Bank report points to regional energy exchange as catalyst for change

REGIONAL trade in hydropower could help in the development of sustainable energy provision for rapidly changing economies such as Cambodia, according to a new report from the World Bank.

The international financial organisation released its report, titled Winds of Change: East Asia’s Sustainable Energy Future, on Monday.

The paper, jointly produced with the Australian Government Overseas Aid Programme, investigates the challenges of developing green energy in economies where energy security and environmental concerns are becoming increasingly important.

“The main conclusion is that such a path of maintaining economic growth, mitigating climate change and improving energy security is within reach of the region’s countries.

Coalition weighs in on China’s dam plans

Monday, 12 April 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THE Rivers Coalition in Cambodia (RCC), an alliance of local environmental groups, has added its voice to a chorus of regional concerns about the likely downstream impact of eight hydropower dam projects planned in China, saying they will have negative effects on Cambodian fisheries.

“The result of a joint observation by international scientists showed that currently there are no measures to reduce the impact the dams have on fisheries and resources in the lower Mekong,” the RCC said in a statement Saturday.

Land Grabs Continue As Elites Resist Regulation

by Hilaire Avril - TerraViva Europe

A year after the purchases of vast swathes of farm land in Africa first drew public attention, transactions remain as opaque as ever.

Private companies are resisting a global code of conduct that would ensure transparency and local elites continue to benefit from deals that encourage corruption and increase food insecurity.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Villagers feuding over Dangkor district land


MORE than 80 families from Dangkor district’s Choeung Ek commune protested in front of Wat Botum in central Phnom Penh on Thursday, requesting Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in a land dispute with recent arrivals in the area, villagers said Thursday.

Protestor Theb Korn, 47, who represents 84 families in Choeung Ek village, said a 60-metre by 265-metre plot of empty land has been illegally occupied by 26 families since 2007, and that it has been under the joint control of the villagers since 1980.

Rights groups ask VN to free Khmer Krom

The Phnom Penh Post

KHMER Krom advocacy groups have called on authorities in Vietnam to release ethnic Khmers being held in Vietnamese jails and to relax cultural and religious restrictions ahead of next week’s Khmer New Year holiday.

Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Krom Association, said that on the occasion of the annual holiday, which begins April 14, Vietnam should loosen government controls and respect the rights of the country’s ethnic Khmer minority.

Takeo villagers forced to sign land over to NGO: witnesses

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Photo by: Pha Lina
Takeo province villagers involved in a land fight with an NGO protest in front of the National Assembly on Wednesday.

POLICE in Takeo province’s Kirivong district surrounded the homes of 50 villagers on Thursday, ordering them to go to the district police office, where they were told to sign an agreement turning over their land to a local conservation NGO, villagers said.

The villagers, who had participated in a land dispute-related protest broken up by police in the capital a day earlier, have accused the NGO Chamreun Chiet Khmer of planting acacia trees on land they claim to have inhabited for more than 20 years.

Chan Sophal, a member of the premier’s bodyguard unit who lives on the disputed land in Takeo, said six police officers arrived at his village early on Thursday morning to arrest the leaders of Wednesday’s rally.

NGOs call for crackdown on illegal logging to be widened


A COALITION of local human rights NGOs have applauded the removal of the Forestry Administration’s director as part of a recent crackdown on illegal logging, but have called on the government to take additional action to ensure the full eradication of forestry crimes.

At a press conference Friday, Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the firing of Ty Sokun was an example to powerful officials who are profiting from the illicit trade in timber.

Villagers plan to petition PM in land dispute

Monday, 12 April 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol and Will Baxter 
The Phnom Penh Post

FIVE village representatives from Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune say they plan to submit a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen today, asking for intervention in their ongoing dispute with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.

Village representative San Thau said that the community had submitted 1,350 thumbprints along with the letter, which asks the government to set clear boundaries between the villagers’ land and land granted to the company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

Plea for Kraya families

Friday, 09 April 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea
The Phnom Penh Post

SAM Rainsy Party lawmaker Men Sothavarin has asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to provide farmland for poor residents and disabled military veterans in Kampong Thom province.

In a letter dated Thursday, the lawmaker said that 600 families evicted last December from the province’s Kraya commune to make way for a Vietnamese rubber company are facing serious food shortages because they have not been granted replacement land promised by the government.

Land grant statistics revealed in govt report


THE GOVERNMENT provided 124,000 hectares of land to 19 companies in concessions last year, according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The concessions, spread across eight provinces, were for the growth of eight agro-industrial products, including rubber, Cambodia’s second-most lucrative crop after rice.

“We hope that the companies will be able to grow more rubber in the coming years,” said Chay Sokun, deputy director of the Planning Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Sunday.

Thailand’s protests claim 21


Red Shirts remain defiant after attempts to remove them left over 800 injured; army retreats, calling for a truce after protesters took five soldiers hostage.

Bangkok
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Photo by: AFP
A protestor gets his picture taken next to a seized army armoured vehicle after overnight clashes between the army and “Red Shirt” protesters in central Bangkok on Sunday. Demonstrators vowed to remain on the streets of the Thai capital and bring down the government, the day after the country’s worst political violence in nearly two decades.

It’s frightening. We heard explosions and people were running all around.


DEFIANT Red Shirt Thai protesters vowed Sunday to keep up their bid to topple the government, after the country’s worst political violence in almost two decades left 21 dead and over 800 injured.

Protest leaders, who have promised to maintain their campaign until the government dissolves parliament and calls fresh elections, demanded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down and leave the country.

Seventeen civilians, including a Japanese TV cameraman, and four soldiers were killed in Saturday’s crackdown on the Red Shirt supporters of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra in Bangkok, the emergency services said.

On Sunday evening Red Shirts gathered to mourn the loss of their comrades at the city’s Democracy Monument – the scene of a fierce battle on Saturday – where grieving relatives led a procession holding up gold-framed pictures of the dead.

They were followed by crying men carrying caskets, a couple containing bodies draped with Thai flags and flowers. Some onlooking protesters prayed and others waved red banners.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Women of Courage: 3 Stories | International Women's Day 2010

Women of Courage. 3 Stories

Celebrating
International Women's Day

March 8, 2010
Shiprah, Puah and the Hebrew Midwives

The first recorded event of civil resistance is fittingly an event of women affirming life in the face of death. Circa 1300BC The Hebrew people were living in Egypt and found themselves under the power of a king (Pharoah) who was afraid of them. They were a strong people more numerous than the indigenous Egyptian population, and Pharoah conspired to a program of genocide lest the Hebrews overpower the Egyptians. The Hebrew midwifes in Egypt were then tasked by Pharoah to kill any male child born to them. But the midwives refused the command, risking their own lives in the process. Their story is immortalised in Exodus chapter one.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The End of the Orange Revolution


I'm posting this article because I think it raises a really important question, along with an earlier article by Eric, which is do nonviolent revolutions really follow through on their promises of freedom, democracy, economic and social liberation. In a growing number of cases, such as the Ukraine and South Africa, the new nonviolently installed regimes have embedded themselves with liberal economic agendas which have not made life any easier for the poor and marginalised, and perhaps even made it worse. This is an area that needs to be considered for the future of nonviolence. If countries go through the massive upheaval of nonviolent revolution only to find there was no liberation at all for the most vulnerable, nonviolence may find itself crossed off the list of potential change strategies of the future. We might add the Philippines to this list, particularly in relation to land reform and the relationship with the Muslim and Communist groups that seek recognition from central Manila, as well as political autonomy.

Experiments with the Truth 12/2/2010


Experiments with the Truth 10/2/2010

UNLV8
  • Hundreds of students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas walked out of class yesterday and gathered for a rally outside a building where lawmakers were holding a finance committee meeting. The lawmakers agreed to hear their concerns over the proposed budget cuts.
  • At least 50 women at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in England entered the fourth day of a hunger strike yesterday to protest against their detention and conditions, with ­several reportedly fainting in corridors and almost 20 locked outdoors wearing few clothes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yes! Magazine

Yes! Magazine is worth taking a look at, if you haven't already, with some great articles on the history of active nonviolence, as well as ANV in present-day action.

Here are a few articles worth reading:

Celebrating MLK

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/columns/how-shall-we-celebrate-martin-luther-kings-birthday

Book Review: History of a Dangerous Idea

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/purple-america/in-review-nonviolence-the-history-of-a-dangerous-idea

Heroes for Unheroic Times
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/10-most-hopeful-trends/active-nonviolence-heroes-for-an-unheroic-time

Weapons of Mass Democracy
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/learn-as-you-go/weapons-of-mass-democracy

Nonviolence and Poverty
http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/a-conversation-about-nonviolence

The Power of Nonviolent Movements
http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/the-power-of-nonviolent-movements

--  Peace, Chris Baker Evens 012 359 143 http://thenonviolentstory.blogspot.com/  “There is no way to peace. Peace is the Way.” A.J.Muste   

Experiments with the Truth 2/10/10

UNLV8
  • Hundreds of students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas walked out of class yesterday and gathered for a rally outside a building where lawmakers were holding a finance committee meeting. The lawmakers agreed to hear their concerns over the proposed budget cuts.
  • At least 50 women at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in England entered the fourth day of a hunger strike yesterday to protest against their detention and conditions, with ­several reportedly fainting in corridors and almost 20 locked outdoors wearing few clothes.

Experiments with the Truth: 2/8/10

  • Hundreds of London Underground maintenance workers went on the first of a series of 24-hour strikes Friday morning in protest over new roster arrangements. They will continue to cause disruptions at the same time every Sunday from February 14th until the dispute is resolved.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Experiments with the truth: 2/5/10

  • More than 250 Washington State University Vancouver students staged a “mass walkout” to protest budget cuts to academic programs, the elimination of crucial financial aid, and continued tuition hikes.
  • Canadian anti-Olympic protesters are promising a series of protests starting this weekend, culminating in a march on the opening ceremonies Feb. 12.
Source: Bryan Farrell, Waging Nonviolence

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Experiments with truth: 2/2/10

  • A large number of staff at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport, including security personnel, walked off the job yesterday and attended union meetings in protest against plans to outsource two employee canteens. Other employees who have downed tools include baggage handlers, the fire department, cleaning crews, technicians and drivers.
  • Immigrants held in a South Texas detention center have begun an indefinite hunger strike. Its the second mass hunger strike in a year. Some of the detainees say they’ll refuse to eat until they are released.
Source: Eric Stoner, Waging Nonviolence

Dr King on the problem of suffering. A Sermon on Haiti

Source: FORpeace - the blog of the Fellowship of Reconciliation
 
Like all of us, Dr. King faced the problem of suffering and evil. There are many wonderful things in life, many so pervasive that we don’t even think about them -- like  hearts that beat continually, eyes that see, ears that hear, arms and legs that move: these we take for granted and may never have thought of them as daily miracles.
But we also have minds that think and that raise questions as seen, e.g. in the age-old questions pondered in the Bible: why do the wicked prosper? Why do we suffer? Why does evil occur? I am sure many of you have thought about this with the destructive earthquake in Haiti.

The power of archivists

To honor the many hard-working human rights workers in Cambodia doing the unthankable task of documenting abuses, I'm posting this article from Waging Nonviolence for you ...

I hate to be tooting The New Yorker’s horn so much lately, but today they have a really nice blog post asking (rhetorically), “Are archivists today’s real peacemakers?” Meredith Blake reports on the “Archivist of the Year” awards last year at CUNY:

David Myers, the director of U.C.L.A.’s Center for Jewish Studies, spoke gracefully on the evening’s subject, saying that “the potential of the archive is not merely to preserve, but to liberate.” His belief is that through the dedicated work of archivists, it may be possible for Israelis and Palestinians to “craft a shared history that honors, with self-critical honesty, both traditions.” As possible inspiration, he cited “Histoire-Geschichte,” a history textbook about post-war Europe co-authored by French and German experts.

Columbia’s Rashid Khalidi, though a shade or two more skeptical than Myers, was nevertheless insistent that preserving the records of the Palestinian people was a critical step in the peace process, particularly in the ongoing absence of a Palestinian state or even a centralized archive. Vital as it may be, preservation often takes a back seat to more dire needs, said Khalidi. “There always seem to be more pressing needs elsewhere.”

We don’t have an “Archiving” category here at Waging Nonviolence, and certainly not one under “Actions.” But something like this is an important reminder that not all nonviolent, self-sacrificing acts for the sake of justice come in the form of direct protest. Take, for example, the dangers of archival work in post-invasion Iraq:

Previous “Archivist of the Year” honoree Saad Eskander proves just how dangerous—and how urgent—the work of an archivist can be. The former Kurdish fighter returned to his native Iraq in 2003 to work as director of the Iraqi National Library in Baghdad. In a captivating online diary, Eskander chronicled his brave efforts at reclaiming his nation’s history from a variety of threats: mold, car bombs, Baath loyalists, Muslim fundamentalists. The blog provided a window into the bipolar demands of his job, from mundane administrative questions, like where to install new air conditioners, to the virtually unthinkable—snipers, death threats, and even the kidnapping and murder of two staff librarians.

Though, for now, we do so under less mortal danger, this act of archiving is a form of activism that all of us who read, comment, and contribute at Waging Nonviolence undertake. We document, we remember; we insist, against the distraction of violence, that nonviolent struggle is at work in our world too, and more powerfully than the alternative.

Source: Waging Nonviolence


--  Peace, Chris Baker Evens 012 359 143 http://thenonviolentstory.blogspot.com/  “There is no way to peace. Peace is the Way.” A.J.Muste   

Experiments with the Truth 1/29/10

  • Hundreds of Notre Dame University students and faculty members gathered on campus yesterday to demand more equality for LGBT students. The protest was in response to an anti-gay comic strip which appeared in the student paper a few weeks ago.
  • Climate activists in South Lanarkshire closed down one of Scotland’s main coal terminals yesterday when one of the protesters chained himself to a digging machine. This led to 11 coal trucks queuing at the terminal’s gate and prevented a coal train being loaded.
  • Dozens of people gathered in front of Camp Phoenix, an ISAF military base in the eastern part of Kabul, to protest the death of a civilian by NATO forces. They blocked the road that links the Afghan capital to eastern provinces.
  • Hundreds of students and alumni packed the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson yesterday to show their support for higher education funding and their opposition to proposals that call for merging some Mississippi universities.
  • About 1,400 construction workers defied a court order to end their strike at the $13 billion liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia. The strike started Jan. 22 to protest Woodside Petroleum Ltd.’s plans to make the workers change accommodation every month instead of providing permanent housing.
  • Five concerned parents barricaded themselves inside a primary school in Glasgow this week to protest proposals to shut down the school. It was the latest in a series of school occupations which have taken place over the past year.
Source: Waging Nonviolence

Friday, February 5, 2010

Experiments with the Truth 1/27/10

(Bay Ismoyo / AFP/Getty Images / January 18, 2010)
  • In Albany, New York, a rally was held on Monday over plans to allow for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in upstate New York. Critics say the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could contaminate the water supplies of New York City and other areas of the state.