Thursday, January 29, 2009

So What Can We Do?

Last Saturday I witnessed a human rights travesty, the forced eviction of Dey Krahorm, prompting me to write to inform you and others and ask for prayer. It was really inspiring to spend the next few days receiving emails of solidarity. Two recurring themes in these letters were of a sense of powerlessness in the face of such brutal disregard for the rights of the weak and a desire to act.

I share that feeling of powerlessness and I also share the belief that even if our actions seem to make little difference we still must act. To be compassionate people we need to do acts of compassion. So what can be done?

LICADHO is a human rights organization in Cambodia that has been attempting to advocate for this community and others in similar situations for a number of years. The following is an extract of an email the director of LICADHO, Naly, sent out two days after the eviction:

“Approximately 38 Dey Krahorm families are living in our offices, 213 Dey Krahorm villagers and relatives are also coming for meals, medical care, legal advice, photocopies and material assistance since Saturday. Hundreds of others, many of them who were Dey Krahorm renters, were dumped shortly after the eviction along the road to the new site or on the new “resettlement site” 16 km from Phnom Penh.

“Humanitarian NGOs and several LICADHO staff have gone to see the new site, the houses are unfinished, there are no roofs, toilets or kitchens. The site has no basic infrastructure, lacks drinking water and has no schools, health clinics or markets are nearby. Only about 27 families have been able to acquire houses.

“The DK families living in our offices are attempting to continue negotiating with the municipality and 7NG company to obtain adequate compensation as they do not want to move to the new “resettlement site”. There have also been groups coming in during the weekend that are sleeping on the streets of Phnom Penh.”

Naly also informed me that LICADHO have emergency funds available for one week only but are anticipating a much greater demand in order to ensure these families receive the basic necessities of life. If you would like to donate to LICADHO to provide food, shelter, blankets and clothing to the victims, you can do so on the LICADHO website here.

Also please write to your government (Minister of Foreign Affairs) informing them of this human rights abuse. It is unacceptable and it is vital that the global community communicates to the Cambodian government the unacceptability of events like this.

If you require more information have a look at these websites:
Photos of the eviction
More photos of the eviction (our team leader is in the blue jacket, first row, second from the top)
About the eviction
Everything you need to know about Dey Krahorm before the eviction
About NZAID to Cambodia

Thanks for your support and prayers.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In Memory of Dey Krahorm

Last week I walked around a community called Dey Krahorm. Today that community no longer exists. Last week I called out greetings to the kids playing outside their homes. Today those children have no home. Last week I invaded their land with a smile of friendship and a word of support. Today, their space was invaded by hundreds of soldiers and riot police, with tear gas and bulldozers. And today, they have no land.

This morning I watched in horror as hundreds of police surrounded Dey Krahorm. Later I heard the story of horror from inside the community. Bulldozers tearing down houses as the residents, the legal owners, scrambled to retrieve their belongings. 150 families, many of whom have lived in this area for 25 years, are suddenly and brutally rendered homeless.

I am angry at the complete lack of regard for human rights and the necessities of human life, a lack of regard for due legal process because these people are poor and powerless and the company wanting to acquire the land is rich and powerful. I am angry and Jesus is angry. I feel compassion for these families, especially the children, not knowing where they will find shelter and rest. I weep and Jesus weeps.

Please pray for safety and shelter for the ex-residents of Dey Krahorm. Pray for…

"Shelter for fragile lives, cures for their ills
Work for the craftsmen, trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed, rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause of those who can’t speak

God of the poor, friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts, let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love from a spark to a flame"

(Beauty for Brokenness – Graham Kendrick)