Lifesaver for ages 9 and up -- Cambodia: Free a brave human rights defender
Photo Credit: © LICADHO, Housing rights activist Tep Vanny arrives at court in February.
This is Tep Vanny. Amnesty International calls her a symbol of peaceful activism in Cambodia. Why? Because she champions the rights of people in her community without using violence.
Tep Vanny had been doing that for almost 10 years. She helped other communities too. But then the government wanted her to stop criticizing their actions and they put her in jail.
The government must free Tep Vanny. You can help make that happen.
It all started about 10 years ago when Tep Vanny was about 25 years old. She was living among 4000 families beside a lake in the middle of Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh (you can pronounce it Nom Pen).
One day, workers at a company arrived and told everyone to leave because the government had given them permission to make it into a tourist area. Governments can move people out of their homes but they must give them notice, discuss the plans to explain what will happen, prepare decent homes nearby, and help people move without hurting them or their belongings.
Tep Vanny noticed they were not following all these rules. So she spoke out publicly about the injustices. Others joined her.
It didn’t do any good. The people are gone and the lake is filled with sand. But Tep Vanny and the others refused to be quiet even when they knew they would be beaten and even arrested.
That’s what happened. The government has used prison to silence her and to show what will happen to others if they stand up for their rights and the rights of others.
We must not allow the government to silence her, or to intimidate activists like her.
Together, we can protect human rights defenders like Tep Vanny, and help them build a fairer world.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Join these youth in Luxembourg who are also campaigning for Tep Vanny’s freedom. Ask Cambodia’s prime minister to let her go.
- Start your letter with Your Excellency.
- In your first sentence, tell the prime minister about what kind of house you live in and where your community is.
- Then explain your concern about Tep Vanny’s imprisonment for defending people’s right to housing.
- In your last sentence, ask him to free Tep Vanny right away.
WHERE DO I SEND MY MESSAGE?
Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen
Office of the Prime Minister
Jok Dimitrov Boulevard
You will need $2.50 postage.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
Send Tep Vanny a message of support. You could tell her how brave she is, or how much you admire her for speaking out even when she knew she would probably be put in jail. Or you could tell her that you have asked the prime minister to free her.
Send your message to LICADHO, a human rights group that supports her. You can mail your message to their address, email it, or type your message into the online form below.
Would you like to receive other monthly Lifesavers? Just email email@example.com.