Cambodia: traumatic past, troubled future

In a new Policy Forum Pod two leading experts shed some light on the disturbing human rights violations being committed on Phnom Penh’s homeless people in contemporary Cambodia. Listen to the pod here: http://bit.ly/PFP_cambodia

Cambodia is a country whose recent past was plagued by extreme violence: large-scale bombing, civil war, invasion and genocide, acts that in total killed more than two million people over two decades.

But it’s also a country whose present appears to be plunging back into the human misery of its haunted past, with not only state-sanctioned, but state-perpetrated violence being carried out against some of its most vulnerable citizens.

It’s violence that is being largely overlooked by the international community.

It is a situation in which Phnom Penh’s homeless people are systematically being rounded up by police, their possessions arbitrarily destroyed, and they themselves are being deported to what are effectively concentration camps outside the capital where they are subjected to appalling conditions.

This is part of a broader pattern of human rights violations, from curbs on free speech and the media, to restrictions on elected political opponents, that seriously threaten the country’s prospects for free and fair democratic elections in 2018 and, longer term, for a peaceful, democratic future.

Discussing the country’s traumatic past and troubling present are:

Professor the Honourable Gareth Evans AC QC. Professor Evans is Chancellor of the Australian National University, and has been recognised at both the national and international level for his extraordinary service and contribution to international relations, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, to global policy, conflict prevention and resolution, and to arms control and disarmament.

As one of Australia’s longest serving Foreign Ministers, Professor Evans was the architect of the United Nations’ intervention in Cambodia and the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement to put an end to the mass murders and other human rights atrocities of the 1970s and 80s. He has continued to monitor developments over the years and remains an influential and respected voice on Cambodia today.

Dr Simon Springer is an Associate Professor at Canada’s Victoria University. He has spent the last 15 years doing research in Cambodia looking at patterns of political and structural violence that have arisen as the country has transitioned towards a free market economy and struggled with consolidating its democracy.

His research has included looking at the plight of Phnom Penh’s homeless and interviewing hundreds of people on the ground. He has published a number of books in that time and has worked to draw international attention to the grievous situation unfolding.

Dr Springer and Professor Evans are in conversation with Policy Forum’s Fiona Benson. You can read Simon Springer’s Policy Forum piece on Cambodia’s homeless at www.policyforum.net/apocalypse-apocalypse-now/

The pod also takes a look at listener feedback on our last two podcasts on the South China Sea ruling, and the idea of a universal basic income.

You can catch up with our Policy Forum podcast series via iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud. If you like what you hear, please give us a review on iTunes and help us get the word out.

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