As most people enjoy the cheer of Christmas and all its festivities, a grandmother and mother to a disabled son languish in jail. The mother is unable to care for her vulnerable family or enjoy the season that is supposed to be filled with cheer.

Plastic sheets cover the remains of a house after a forced eviction… and you thought the Australian property market was tough

Sixty-five year old Tim Sakmony’s story is a sad reflection of the Cambodian government’s continued program of forced evictions. For speaking out about the impending loss of her home and her subsequent fears for her disabled child, she has been forced into silence, through what Amnesty International believes are trumped up charges.

Bulldozing slums is nothing new in Cambodia and the Australian government was at one stage dragged into this shocking practice of human rights abuse during the construction of the Australian embassy in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.

This modern monument of steel, glass and concrete should have marked the beginning of an exciting new era in Cambodia in 2009 but now stands as a very visible reminder of the Cambodian government’s relentless campaign of forced evictions.

That’s because the construction of the Australian Embassy was undertaken only after the local families that lived there were dragged kicking and screaming from their shanty homes to make way for it.

Because of their part in protesting acts like this, Tim and fellow activist Yorm Bopha will on Boxing Day face trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court and could be sentenced to between six months and five years in jail if found guilty.

More than three years on from the scandalous forced eviction of ‘Group 78’ to make way for the Australian embassy, the bulldozers are now squarely aimed at the Borei Keila and Boeung Kak lake communities.

These are also, by no coincidence, communities where Tim and Yorm have been outspoken critics of the government’s program of forced evictions. And sadly, instead of engaging meaningfully with communities about the realities of development and relocation, Cambodia has responded to this outcry by attempting to bully people into submission.

So sensitive are the authorities to criticism that they have Tim facing charges in part brought upon her for her request for the apartment promised to her disabled son as compensation for being forcibly evicted from her home.

As Amnesty International and our supporters raise awareness about these blatant human rights abuses, we lead the call for Australians to make their disgust at this practice known. That’s because despite the Cambodian government acting like a bully in its own backyard, as with many bullies, they are likely to stop when they’re confronted about their appalling behaviour.

As most Australians gather to watch the Boxing day Test, these two inspiring women face charges for crimes they didn’t commit. But while the match unfolds, we will continue to send a message to the government of Cambodia, amid the growing public outcry gathering outside of the country, this campaign of forced evictions must end.

Amnesty activists are going to be writing letters and sending emails over the Christmas break to demand the release of Yorm and Tim, bolstered in knowing that we’ve had this fight before and won.

This year as you relax with your family over the Christmas break, pause for a second and think about what it would be like to live under threat of eviction from your own home. Consider adding ‘make the world a better place’ to your new year’s resolution list and join Amnesty in its fight to hold governments to account.

This resolution could also be the priceless gift sitting at the top of people like Yorm and Tim’s Christmas wish list.

Simply show your support alongside Amnesty for these two inspiring women by clicking here.

Comments on this post close at 6 pm AEDST

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    • Gregg says:

      05:26am | 26/12/12

      This ought to be a real winner for Julia in pressing her asianisation program and with a Foreign Minister who claims his asian descent wife is worth more than her weight in gold in international matters for Australia, we could not be better placed for a Senatorial approach.

      Go forth Senator Carr and show us how that valuable golden partner can be put to great use.

    • carter says:

      07:41am | 26/12/12

      just wow
      what a sad individual you are.

    • TChong says:

      10:10am | 26/12/12

      So Gregg
      All asians are the same?
      Is it the eye lid, the black hair, or their fondness for rice or noodles?
      ( sarcasm intended)
      Helen ( Carr) is Malaysian, not Cambodian.
      I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt of a massive typo.
      Your posts arent usually so shallow, or racist

    • Linda says:

      10:19am | 26/12/12

      Gregg. I think you had one too many over Xmas. Better sober up.

    • Gregg says:

      10:35am | 26/12/12

      Bright as a button I am Carter and it is the despairing people of Phnom Penh. that you ought to feel sad for as I do and then Carr if he can get past his making whoopee over a Security Council seat might be less a sad case too if he does in deed attempt to initiate something.

    • A Voter says:

      11:40am | 26/12/12


      Got up on the wrong side of the bed, did we? Or, ran out of Christmas spirit already :(

    • carter says:

      12:38pm | 26/12/12

      “Bright as a button”?
      More like a bitter and twisted old codger living in the past darkly.

    • Gregg says:

      04:36pm | 26/12/12

      First off I have not said Mrs Carr is of either Malaysian or Cambodian descent but asian and last time I looked at an atlas, not that I needed to, both Malaysia and Cambodia are in Asia.

      Senator Carr has been to the fore in defending the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer $$$$ that taking his wife with him on all trips abroad is costing Australian taxpayers.

      That she has an Asian background is why I have mentioned being better placed (sarcasm )
      Where’s the typo or racism?


      07:44am | 26/12/12

      Hi Michael,

      I am sure that Amnesty International does great work around the world however I truly believe that it isn’t nearly enough.  Cambodians have suffered a great deal throughout their history scarred with ethnic cleansing, civil wars and mass killings. And you know what looking back it seemed like the whole world was only standing and watching by these tragic events.  It is great to know that someone like yourself who cares enough about Cambodians to actually come up with all the information needed for this article.

      I am only hoping that this won’t only make the news only for a few days and something positive and constructive will come out of all this suffering in the long term. And by the way forced evictions aren’t only a serious problem faced by many poor families in Cambodia.  I am certain that you have heard about the thousands of families being forced out of their homes due to faulty mortgage practices in the USA.  However surviving all the hardships in the growing nations seems to be so much tougher than the rest of the world!

      As all Australians we should all do more than just showing interest in exchange students and educating the elite students from Asia based purely on financial gain.  Why don’t we all realize that the most of 3.5 billion Asians are trying to feed their families by surviving on the very basics. We can have all the humanitarian organisations to deal with the problems faced by these billions of people. But if Australia is actually part of Asia then it needs to play a major role in highlighting such injustices instead of just watching from a distance only.  Kind regards.

    • Christian Real says:

      08:06am | 26/12/12

      You just could not help yourself could you?, in having a cheap shot at our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister

    • Gregg says:

      10:30am | 26/12/12

      No cheap shot Christian for if they both want to put effort out there in front of their mouths, they ought to be to the fore in at least making strong representations.
      There is always going to be development in all countries one way or another, perhaps even more so and less well planned in developing countries, the flattish terrain shown in that photograph and monsoonial type rain you can get even more reason for good planning and it is something for which skills in Australia could well be applicable and some sort of offer could be made so as also planning for and providing relocation was integral in any redevelopment.

      Otherwise, you could just have many more disadvantaged as much as you have with the likes of those living on rubbish dumps in places like Manila.

      Gillard and Carr hold the positions where they should be to the fore in promoting action and Gillard was there not long back for the Asia Pacific meeting or whatever where she allocated a paltry $12,000 or so for a new school roof.
      That was a golden opportunity to be having a good look at what was going on and raising how some form of aid could alleviate suffering.

      Are you too used to meekly accepting the lacklustre performance of our government? and is that why you already see Tony Abbott as a defacto leader and like nothing better than to criticise him.

    • Christian Real says:

      02:14pm | 26/12/12

      An Opposition leader needs to presesent themselves as an alternative Leader .
      I do not see Abbott as a defacto Leader as you claim,personally i do not believe that he has in fact got any Leadership qualities and that is why he continues to resort to muck raking, smear campaigns and absolutely no policies what so ever..

    • Bruce says:

      08:24am | 26/12/12

      Its the cancer thats destroying societies and the planet, aka global growth.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      12:22pm | 26/12/12

      Complain to the Chinese. They already own Cambodia…...


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