Thursday, November 8, 2012

Activist Monk Defends Struggle


Activist Monk Defends Struggle

2012-11-08
Cambodia’s ‘multimedia monk’ calls on his brethren to defend the rights of the public.
RFA
Loun Savath at RFA headquarters in Washington, Nov. 7, 2012.
Fresh from receiving the “Nobel Prize for Human Rights,” Cambodia’s technology-savvy activist monk Loun Sovath has called on authorities in his country to end the use of violence in land eviction cases, vowing to continue his struggle to protect victims of land grabs.

He also said he would not be cowed by government harassment and called on his fellow monks, often respected as figures of moral authority in Cambodia, to join in the struggle to defend villagers who have become victims of forced evictions.

Loun Sovath was the first Southeast Asian to be presented with the 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders as he was selected for documenting the struggle of land rights activists and ordinary citizens evicted from their homes in his impoverished country.

The monk collected the award—viewed by many as the Noble Prize for Human Rights—in Geneva last month.

“The Buddha advised people to do good deeds both physically and mentally,” he told RFA’s Khmer service during an interview in Washington on Wednesday.

“Respecting human rights is a good deed which will lead to peace and prosperity for this world and in the next. So for monks to become rights defenders is nothing against Buddhism, but can lead to enlightenment and peace.”

“Monks play a vital role in society. I appeal to monks to rise up to follow in the Buddha’s footsteps,” he said.

Loun Sovath  said the Cambodian people must also rise up to demand their rights, highlighting land disputes as the one of the biggest issues facing the public in the country.

“The authorities must stop using violence against innocent villagers who are the victims of land grabbing,” he said.


Research by Cambodian rights group LICADHO shows that some 2.1 million hectares of land has been given to private companies in the form of land concessions over the last two decades.

The massive transfer has led to countless forced evictions and affected over 400,000 people in the 12 provinces that LICADHO monitors since 2003 alone, the group said.

Sovath is currently touring the U.S., meeting with the Cambodian community and addressing various nongovernmental organizations on the human rights situation in his country. He began his nearly two-month visit last week in New York, traveled to Washington, and arrived in Chicago Thursday.

Sovath said he was honored to receive the Martin Ennals Award.

“I was given the award because I have worked as a rights defender and a protector of social justice involved with land issues, forced evictions, and the protection of natural resources and wildlife,” he said.

In June 2011, the New York-based Human Rights Watch awarded Loun Sovath with the Hellman/Hammett grant for his work supporting communities facing forced evictions and land-grabbing in Cambodia.

Years of activism

Sovath first became involved in human rights work in 2009, when members of his family were injured during a police shootout at unarmed villagers in a land eviction case. The monk’s brother and nephew were wounded in the standoff, which he documented in a video.

He is known for his extensive use of video to inform the world about his confrontations with authorities, earning him the nickname “multimedia monk.” The monk is rarely seen without a mobile phone or tablet. He also uses songs and art to spread his non-violent message of defending human rights.

Loun Sovath said he strove to protect human rights in the interest of his country.

“I have a desire to help build Cambodia,” he said.

In June, Loun Sovath was briefly detained by Cambodian authorities and accused of “causing instability” after he joined protests against the jailing of 13 women over a long-running forced land eviction case in the capital Phnom Penh.

Municipal monk officials threatened to have him defrocked as a monk, but released him after he put his thumbprint on a statement assuring that he will not join future protests. Loun Sovath had been banned in April from entering pagodas in Phnom Penh after he participated in land protests.

Sovath, who has since participated in various protests, said he would not stop his activism even though he was concerned about his personal safety.

“The authorities have tried to prevent me from doing good things and from helping the country and [the Buddhist] religion,” Sovath said.

“I can’t accept this because I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

“As long as human rights violations continue to exist in Cambodia, I will continue to do my work.”

Reported by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Saṅghādisesa 13: A corrupter of families!

    In case a bhikkhu living in dependence on a certain village or town is a corrupter of families, a man of depraved conduct — whose depraved conduct is both seen and heard about, and the families he has corrupted are both seen and heard about — the bhikkhus are to admonish him thus: "You, venerable sir, are a corrupter of families, a man of depraved conduct. Your depraved conduct is both seen and heard about, and the families you have corrupted are both seen and heard about. Leave this monastery, venerable sir. Enough of your staying here."

    And should that bhikkhu, thus admonished by the bhikkhus, say about the bhikkhus, "The bhikkhus are biased through favoritism, biased through aversion, biased through delusion, biased through fear, in that for this sort of offense they banish some and do not banish others," the bhikkhus are to admonish him thus: "Do not say that, venerable sir. The bhikkhus are not biased through favoritism, are not biased through aversion, are not biased through delusion, are not biased through fear. You, venerable sir, are a corrupter of families, a man of depraved conduct. Your depraved conduct is both seen and heard about, and the families you have corrupted are both seen and heard about. Leave this monastery, venerable sir. Enough of your staying here."

    And should that bhikkhu, thus admonished by the bhikkhus, persist as before, the bhikkhus are to rebuke him up to three times so as to desist. If while being rebuked up to three times he desists, that is good. If he does not desist, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community.

    9) He practices wrong modes of livelihood.

    This last category includes such practices as:

    a) running messages and errands for kings, ministers of state, householders, etc. A modern example would be participating in political campaigns.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Regarding the struggle... that is naturally:

    "Discipline is for the sake of restraint, restraint for the sake of freedom from remorse, freedom from remorse for the sake of joy, joy for the sake of rapture, rapture for the sake of tranquility, tranquility for the sake of pleasure, pleasure for the sake of concentration, concentration for the sake of knowledge and vision of things as they have come to be, knowledge and vision of things as they have come to be for the sake of disenchantment, disenchantment for the sake of dispassion, dispassion for the sake of release, release for the sake of knowledge and vision of release, knowledge and vision of release for the sake of total unbinding through non-clinging." — Pv.XII.2"

    ReplyDelete