WASHINGTON DC - Activist monk Loun Sovath has been awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals award for his human rights work.
Loun Sovath is a land rights activist who has help galvanize impoverished Cambodians whose land is threatened by economic land concessions or real estate developments. The award was announced Tuesday in Geneva.
The annual award is offered by the international rights community and is reviewed by some of the largest organizations in the world, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
“This award was given to Cambodia because of the severity of forced evictions and human rights abuses,” Loun Sovath told VOA Khmer. “The world sees that Cambodia is going off track, and that its leaders are not leading the country on the path of human rights and democracy.”
Loun Sovath has become a chronicler of Cambodia’s land and housing rights crises, filming with digital cameras or mobile phones, creating an archive of documented rights abuses from urban and rural conflicts.
He carries a message of non-violence, including music and poetry, to villagers, while informing them of their legal rights. But he said he faces the threat of prosecution of defrocking in Cambodia.
“For winning the Martin Ennals Award, [Loun Sovath] and many communities across Cambodia received international recognition that they do not stand alone,” said Ryan Schlief, program manager for the Forced Eviction Campaign at Witness. “A clear message has been sent to government leaders, businesses and lenders, in Cambodia or in fact anywhere, that they cannot commit human rights abuses in the names of progress and development.”