Toxic Justice

Human Rights, Justice, and Toxic Waste in Cambodia

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In November 1998, nearly 3,000 tons of Taiwanese toxic waste were dumped in a field in the southern port of Sihanoukville. At the time, there was no law banning such dumping, but Minister of Environment Mok Mareth said publicly and repeatedly that toxic waste imports were prohibited in Cambodia and a national policy to that effect was in force. Local people panicked:thousands fled the city. Others in Sihanoukville exercised their constitutional rights and in December held two days of public demonstrations, blaming government corruption for the presence of the toxic material. The local authorities sought to blame incitement of the riots on two human rights defenders, Kim Sen and Meas Minear, staff members of the Cambodian human rights group Licadho, or Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. Arrested in December, the two were held for a month and charged with committing robbery and property damage. As this report will illustrate, the Cambodian government appears to bear some responsibility for the dumping and the resulting violations of economic and social rights that followed.

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