Candidate for the Human Rights Tulip: Leng Ouch in Cambodia
Leng Ouch has been working for human and environmental rights in Cambodia for 22 years. By investigating abuses and exposing corruption, he takes up the cause of groups of people whose interests are harmed by companies or government. These groups include local communities who are losing their land to large-scale deforestation. And that is not without risk in the Southeast Asian country known as one of the most dangerous in the world for activists. Ouch is one of the three remaining candidates for the Human Rights Tulip for 2022. This is his story.
What is the Human Rights Tulip?The Human Rights Tulip is a prize that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs awards each year to a human rights defender or human rights organisation to support their important work. The winner receives a bronze tulip and €100,000. This money and the international visibility the prize creates help the winner continue and expand their human rights efforts
Leng Ouch’s work
Leng Ouch is committed to protecting natural resources and, more specifically, the rights of indigenous communities highly dependent on their natural environment. Deforestation and illegal logging in Cambodia constitute a serious threat to the future of indigenous communities.
Ouch investigated the impact of fraudulent large-scale tree planting schemes by foreign investment companies, who steal land and timber using violence and remove local communities from their land without legal basis or fair compensation. He has also looked into corruption and mismanagement by Cambodian authorities that he says conspire with criminal logging companies who sell timber or export it abroad illegally.
Loved and vilified
Ouch fights tirelessly for human and environmental rights and is loved by young people joining him in his fight, fellow activists and journalists, and national and international organisations committed to nature conservation and human rights.
At the same time, his activism entails risks that are a direct threat to him personally. He is vilified by companies with interests in forestry, criminal organisations involved in illegal logging and corrupt officials, who are anything but pleased with Ouch’s interest in them and the abuses he exposes.
Ouch is aware of the risks he is taking. He once said in an interview: ‘Although I’m aware that my life, and my family, is in danger, and that I could be prosecuted and arrested or murdered, I still want to try to save the forest.’ His courage and unfailing commitment have led to his nomination for the Human Rights Tulip for 2022. The winner will be announced on 8 December. There are three candidates remaining.
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