Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cambodian activist first Southeast Asian to receive prestigious rights award

Cambodian activist first Southeast Asian to receive prestigious rights award 

The Venerable Luon Sovath (C) is detained by police, monks and unidentified plain-clothed men in Phnom Penh in May 2012. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 04 October 2012
Justine Drennan
The Phnom Penh Post 

Activist monk Luon Sovath has been named the recipient of this year’s Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for his work promoting villagers’ land claims and publicising rights abuses.

A familiar figure at protests in Cambodia, including the widely decried May trial of the Boeung Kak 13, Sovath is the first Southeast Asian to receive the award, which was established in 1993 and is judged by 10 rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

“The intention of the award is to provide recognition and protection,” said Martin Ennals Foundation director Michael Khambatta, adding that Sovath “has an innovative approach to human rights defence” and is a “forceful advocate” against forced evictions, which deserve more international attention.

According to Dr Pung Chhiv Kek, president of rights group Licadho, which has worked closely with the Buddhist monk, “he is the rare monk who is willing to use his standing as a religious authority figure to speak out against injustices in Cambodia …This is very threatening to authorities, because most Cambodians are very religious people”.

Known as “the multimedia monk”, Sovath has been filming confrontations with the government since 2009, when his video of police violently evicting villagers in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kraeng district undermined police claims that they had fired into the crowd in self-defence.

Since then, Sovath has supported the land claims of several communities, including those of Boeung Kak and Borei Keila, leading religious authorities to ban him from all pagodas in the capital and his province of Siem Reap last year.

In May, he himself became a YouTube hit when he was filmed being forced into a car at the aforementioned Boeung Kak protest, after which religious authorities threatened to defrock him if he did not cease his activism.


  1. Attukkamsana and Paravambhana

    Attukkamsana means praising one's own self either in speech or writing. (atta = self + ukkamsana = praise). Paravambhana means belittling or downgrading others (para = others + vambhana = down-grading, belittling = denunciation).

    In the case of attukkamsana people will feel mana (vainly proud) and lobha (naively pleased) of their status. In the case of paravambhana, issa (envy) and dosa (hatred) will burgeon.


    Some people proclaim their abilities in a boastful manner. They would say they are learned and well-versed, that they are wealthy that their relatives hold high positions, that they are academically highly qualified, that they excel other, etc. They might also say that although now they are in low positions, once they were a cream of society. Even some monks say that they are powerful, dignified, have wealth donors, pass many religious examinations, preach and teach well, can create gold and silver by alchemy, etc. Thus many persons are fond of making ostentatious statements whether true or false; the ignorant may perhaps be taken in by such pretensions whilst the wise will surely not. In both speech and writing, one should abstain from atthukkamsana with mindfulness (sati).

  2. Timely Proclamation

    However, there are opportune occasions when you should proclaim your ability and virtue, with a view to gain due respect for the work you are occupied with, for your words and your ideas. Otherwise, people may look down upon you for not grasping the true situation. This is not conceit (mana), but a timely plan that befits the occasion.


    Some people heaps blames on other when they write criticisms or comments in print-media due to lack of sati. This is malicious practice because someone is unjustly hurt through it. On the other hand if it is essential to criticize, you should do so and give right information to others. When it is mandatory to expose evil people, blame and criticism are of course necessary. Bad people deserve blame and the public should be told the truth to avoid misunderstanding. But you should blame and criticize cautiously, with supporting proofs and reliable evidences when you pit yourself against a personage, highly regarded by people.

    Once a devotee who has donated the monastery, and his wife used to hold the abbot in very high esteem. One day the devotee, by chance, saw the abbot himself frying eggs for the evening meal. So he told his wife about the abbot's singular behavior. But as his wife had great faith in the abbot, she did not believe his words. She thought her husband had lost his mind. She told her neighbors so and jeered at her husband. So her husband had to remain in silence. At bedtime he repeated the news ad still his wife would not believe him. So he had to take back his words lest his wife would again proclaim him mad.

    A true, factual may get bad response from others because of inappropriate time; circumstance, place, etc. Therefore it is important that you launch your blame according to time and circumstance, accompanied by supporting evidence. But it is also important to tell unpleasant truths about really evil persons to your close friends and relatives whether they believe you or not when a timely warning is necessary and blame is justified.

    from Abhidhamma In Daily Life By Ashin Janakabhivamsa