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The filling of Boeung Kak Lake in central Phnom Penh should immediately stop until a proper process that ensures human rights protection is in place, said Amnesty International and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) today.
With work starting on the redevelopment of the lake, tens of thousands of Phnom Penh residents living in its immediate vicinity fear forced eviction. They were not notified the work was going to begin. Few details about the plans have been disclosed as to what will happen to the affected people - an estimated 3,000 to 4,200 families living on the shores of the lake and around the area.
Amnesty International and COHRE said the project process is in breach of both Cambodian and international law.
"In the absence of proper plans, compensation and adequate alternative housing for at least 3,000 affected families, the filling of the lake should be immediately halted. Otherwise, this may be the beginning of the biggest forced eviction in post-war Cambodia," said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher.
"If the government wishes to develop Boeung Kak, they should do so through a legal process, with the participation of communities that live around the lake," said Dan Nicholson, Coordinator of COHRE's Asia and Pacific Program. "Affected communities need to be able to make informed decisions. The serious lack of clear information and accountability shows that preparations are just not in place."
The development plans for Boeung Kak Lake emerged in 2007, after the Municipality of Phnom Penh had entered into a 99-year lease agreement, handing over management of 133 hectares of land, including 90 percent of the lake, to a private developer, Shukaku Ltd. According to the Municipality, this company will turn the area into "pleasant, trade, and service places for domestic and international tourists."
As recently as two weeks ago, representatives of the Municipality conceded to journalists in Phnom Penh that they did not know how many people were affected, but estimated the number to be just 600 families. Local group surveys show the number to be far higher.
In breach of international law and standards the process leading up to the agreement between the company and the Municipality of Phnom Penh excluded affected communities from participation and genuine consultation. Information has been lacking throughout the process, and community members and housing rights advocates in Phnom Penh consider that offers of compensation and/or adequate alternative housing have not been systematic, while resettlement plans have been withheld from the public.
The agreement also appears to breach domestic law and implementing regulations in that no environmental impact assessment has been made public and no bidding procedure preceded the agreement. Moreover, according to the 2001 Land Law, the lake itself should be inalienable state land (so-called state public property), so its ownership cannot be transferred for longer than 15 years, during which time the function [of the property] must not change. Many of the affected families have strong legal claims to the land under the Land Law.
For more information, please contact the AIUSA media office at 202-544-0200 x302 or visit www.amnestyusa.org for more information about the human rights organization's concerns in Cambodia.
Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.(212) 807-8400
"GOP leaders have sent a wildly exploitative ransom note to the public," said one watchdog. "The administration should not accept its terms."
With President Joe Biden set to meet congressional leaders again on Tuesday as the so-called X-date nears, progressive watchdogs and commentators are warning the White House against caving to any of the Republican Party's spending demands, arguing that concessions would reward the GOP's debt ceiling hostage-taking, further embolden far-right lawmakers, and harm vulnerable Americans.
"GOP leaders have sent a wildly exploitative ransom note to the public. The administration should not accept its terms," Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, said in a statement Monday, pointing to the " many executive branch pathways" Biden can explore if House Republicans refuse to accept a clean debt ceiling increase before June 1—the day the U.S. Treasury Department may no longer be able to meet the federal government's payment obligations.
"The White House should be clear about the specific and steep costs to the American people of cutting government services and expediting fossil fuel extraction, while limiting democratic community dissent," Hauser continued, pointing to the safety net cuts and Big Oil giveaways in the House GOP's proposed solution to the debt ceiling impasse.
"Heading into the 2024 election, with democracy itself yet again on the ballot, it would be devastatingly foolish to show the world that the president of the United States can be bullied."
"This is President Biden's moment to prove that protecting America's wellbeing is more important to him than his self-image as a Senate wheel-and-dealer," added Hauser. "These are not good-faith negotiations. Heading into the 2024 election, with democracy itself yet again on the ballot, it would be devastatingly foolish to show the world that the president of the United States can be bullied."
Progressives' concerns over Biden's willingness to stand firm in the face of GOP brinkmanship and, if necessary, fully utilize his executive authority to avert a debt default have grown in recent days amid reports that White House officials are "privately aiming for a two-year deal that would lift the debt limit and impose new limits on discretionary spending," as Politicoput it last week.
Republicans are pushing for 10 years of spending caps, an extreme demand that harks back to the GOP's approach during the 2011 debt ceiling standoff. Biden was vice president and the Obama White House's lead negotiator during that fight, which ended with a law that badly hindered the U.S. economy's recovery from the Great Recession.
Analysts and federal officials have warned that the GOP's latest austerity push could have similarly destructive consequences, resulting in steep cuts to critical government agencies and programs—from rental assistance to food aid. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in March that the GOP's call for a federal spending freeze would make it "impossible to stave off mass evictions."
Ceding at all to the GOP on federal spending would be "a disastrous move," The American Prospect's Ryan Cooper argued Monday in the latest edition of the publication's "X-Date" newsletter.
"Politically, it reinforces the precedent that Republicans can extract concessions through legislative terrorism, and by signaling weakness and timidity in the Democratic leadership, it will further enable GOP extremism," Cooper wrote. "If Republicans control either chamber of Congress next time the ceiling is hit—a high likelihood given how bad the Senate map is in 2024—then they’re virtually certain to take the debt ceiling hostage again."
Moreover, Cooper noted the possibility that spending cuts "would suck hundreds of billions of dollars out of an economy that is already plainly softening, thanks to high interest rates and instability in the banking system."
"A ton of austerity might just be the thing that tips America into a recession during an election year," he continued, "with Biden, a willing negotiator in this process, on the ballot."
In addition to negotiating broad spending levels, Biden told reporters Sunday that he's prepared to examine Republican proposals on work requirements for recipients of federal aid. Analysts have warned that the GOP's work requirement plans would boot millions off of Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
\u201cPretty striking: Biden says he\u2019s waiting to hear GOP proposal on work requirements, per pool report (h/t @TonyRomm).\u201d— Jeff Stein (@Jeff Stein) 1684116402
With June 1 rapidly approaching, there's little public evidence that an agreement between the Biden administration and Republicans is imminent.
While the White House said late last week that staff meetings "have been productive over the past few days," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)—who won his party leadership post by agreeing to use the debt ceiling as leverage to pursue far-right policy goals—declared Monday that he believes the two sides are "far apart" in the ongoing debt ceiling talks.
The Washington Postreported Monday that White House negotiators recently gave Republican leaders "a list of proposals to reduce the deficit by closing tax loopholes."
"Republican negotiators rejected every item," according to the Post.
With House Republicans refusing to accept a condition-free debt limit increase or the White House's budget proposals, pressure has been mounting for the Biden administration to pursue unilateral solutions.
Biden himself said last week that he "has been considering" invoking the 14th Amendment, which states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."
Some constitutional scholars—including Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe—have encouraged Biden to take that route if needed, though the president and members of his administration have expressed concerns over legal challenges that would be sure to follow.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Sunday that "the 14th Amendment is not anyone's first choice."
"The first choice is that the Republicans raise the debt ceiling because the United States government never, ever, ever, ever defaults on its legal obligations," Warren added. "But if Kevin McCarthy is going to push the United States over a cliff, then it becomes the president's responsibility to find an alternative path."
"Carbon capture and storage is a lifeline for the fossil fuel industry and a dangerous distraction from the pressing need to move off oil and gas," said one advocate.
The national climate watchdog group Food & Water Watch on Monday unveiled a new interactive multimedia resource where users can learn more about "false narratives" regarding carbon capture and storage, an unproven technology pushed by fossil fuel companies eager to avoid what scientists and energy experts say is the actual solution to the climate emergency: Ending the burning of coal, gas, and oil to bring down carbon emissions.
Visitors to the group's new "resource hub" first encounter a title card reading, "The Carbon Capture Solution" before the last word is crossed out and replaced with "Scam."
The site, titled Carbon Capture Scam, includes video storytelling, expert testimonials, analysis, infographics, and other content that help explain to readers why carbon capture and storage (CCS) is simply "a lifeline for the fossil fuel industry" rather than a real solution that will reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere and planetary heating.
CCS refers to technologies that are designed to trap and remove carbon emissions from smokestacks and the atmosphere, such as a $1 billion project at Petra Nova coal plant in Texas and one at the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico, both of which were found to be unfeasible.
"What carbon capture and storage is, is a complex set of machines that is attached to a smokestack where carbon dioxide is being emitted, and it captures that CO2," said biologist Sandra Steingraber in a video featured on the site. "Problem one, it's going to increase the energy, just to run the machinery, by 20%."
Other emissions aside from carbon also increase with the use of CCS technology, added Steingraber, such as smog, formaldehyde, and benzene.
"These are chemicals that we know cause heart attack and stroke, that shorten lifeaspans, that are linked to childhood asthma, and are also linked to preterm birth—preterm birth being the number one cause of disability in the United States," said Steingraber.
The Carbon Capture Scam, Explained by Dr. Sandra Steingraberwww.youtube.com
Despite evidence that CCS is more expensive than its proponents admit as well as being energy-intensive and actually contributing to a net increase in emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency last week unveiled new power plant rules that rely heavily on the unproven technology and include plans to build thousands of miles of new pipelines to carry the emissions proponents say will be trapped and stored.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act also allocated billions of dollars to expand CCS.
"The fossil fuel industry has spent millions of dollars promoting carbon capture and policy makers at all levels have taken the bait, doling out billions of dollars to support its development. But CCS is a lifeline for the fossil fuel industry and a dangerous distraction from the pressing need to move off oil and gas," saidFood & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter on Monday.
"Our Carbon Capture Scam web hub exposes the industry lies behind CCS through detailed research, and gives people an opportunity to take action and fight back against CCS and for a truly clean, renewable energy future," she added.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have joined the fossil fuel industry in attempting "to lull consumers into thinking there's an easier fix than ending fossil fuel use," reads Carbon Capture Scam.
"Stop spreading false hope about direct carbon capture," said climate scientist Peter Kalmus, who is quoted on the site. "It won't help prevent catastrophic damage in the short term, it would require tremendous energy, and it may never scale up. Keep researching, but don't bet on it happening. [Definitely] don't bet the whole planet."
Instead of investing in CCS, Carbon Capture Scam says, Congress must stop peddling "dangerous carbon capture hype," end its industry-approved "delay tactics," and ramp up efforts to shift to a renewable energy system.
"Renewable energy and energy efficiency are reliable, cost-effective, and ready for widespread deployment," reads the website. "Given huge advances in production and storage, we could meet 100% of our energy needs with clean, renewable energy—today. All we need is the political will to make it happen."
"This is an occasion to highlight that the noble goals of justice and peace require recognizing the reality and history of the Palestinian people's plight and ensuring the fulfillment of their inalienable rights," explained UNISPAL.
For the first time ever, the United Nations on Monday officially commemorated the Nakba, or "catastrophe," when more than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homeland during a sweeping Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign in service of the establishment of the modern state of Israel 75 years ago.
Events scheduled for Monday include a morning conference at U.N. headquarters in New York City held by the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well as a special evening commemoration in the General Assembly Hall.
"This is an occasion to highlight that the noble goals of justice and peace, require recognizing the reality and history of the Palestinian people's plight and ensuring the fulfillment of their inalienable rights," the U.N. Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) said in a statement.
\u201c@Palestine_UN @UN \ud83d\udce2Today, Tune in as @UNISPAL commemorates the 75th anniversary of Nakba. \n\n\ud83d\udea8Starting now: High-Level Special Meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York, with participation Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of #Palestine. \n\n\ud83d\udcfd\ufe0f Live streaming \ud83d\udc47\nhttps://t.co/gaLQQCdQ4d\u201d— UN Palestinian Rights Committee (@UN Palestinian Rights Committee) 1683831205
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, hailed Monday's "historic" commemoration, noting that the General Assembly in 1947 voted—without consulting Palestinians—to partition Palestine, then a British protectorate. Jews, who comprised just over one-third of Palestine's population at the time, got 55% of its land.
"It's acknowledging the responsibility of the U.N. of not being able to resolve this catastrophe for the Palestinian people for 75 years," he said, adding that "the catastrophe to the Palestinian people is still ongoing."
\u201c75 years ago, the Nakba took place in Palestine in which 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes.\n\nBut the Nakba didn\u2019t end in 1948. It continues to affect more than 12 million Palestinians who remain stateless today as they fight to end Israeli occupation \u2935\ufe0f\u201d— Al Jazeera English (@Al Jazeera English) 1684147039
Gilan Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., called the event "shameful."
"Attending one-sided Palestinian initiatives that falsely brand Israel as the source of all evil does not bring the conflict closer to an end, but only serves to inflame tensions," Erdan said in a letter to other U.N. envoys urging them to boycott the event.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement that Monday's U.N. events "mark an important milestone in international acknowledgment of the plight of the Palestinian people under occupation and their ongoing struggle for justice and freedom."
"Representatives of the United States should participate in these U.N. memorial events to demonstrate a commitment to uphold justice for all people, including Palestinians," he added.
\u201c\ud83e\uddf5Today marks 75 years of the ongoing Palestinian #Nakba, Israel's violent and brutal campaign to expel, uproot, and erase Palestinians from their homes and homeland. This is not a historic event but an ongoing process of settler-colonialism and apartheid. https://t.co/1x06L3pEIl\u201d— Josh Ruebner (@Josh Ruebner) 1684167135
No diplomats from the United States—Israel's main benefactor and often the only nation to vote against most of the world on U.N. resolutions condemning Israeli crimes or affirming Palestinian rights—attended Monday's commemoration.
However, demonstrations took place in the United States, including in Washington, D.C., where Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—the only Palestinian-American in Congress—held a Nakba commemoration last week and where a growing number of congressional Democrats are condemning Israeli apartheid, occupation, settler colonization, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against Palestinians.
\u201cYoung liberation \ud83c\uddf5\ud83c\uddf8\u270a\ud83c\udffc\nPalestinians, their communities, & allies marched to Congress in DC on May 14, 2023 to commemorate 75 years of the Nakba (May 15), calling for an end to U.S. funding to Israel.\n\nI absolutely love photographing these women. @md2palestine @palyouthmvmt\u201d— Laura Albast (@Laura Albast) 1684118751
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), for example, recently re-introduced the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, which would place conditions on U.S. aid, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) last month led a letter signed by more than a dozen colleagues urging the Biden administration to rethink financial assistance to Israel.
Congress currently authorizes $3.8 billion in annual—and mostly unconditional—aid to Israel.
\u201cUS congresswoman Rashia Tlaib: "I say it loud and clear by introducing a historic resolution in congress: The Nakba happened in 1948 and it never ended."\n#Nakba75\u201d— PALESTINE ONLINE \ud83c\uddf5\ud83c\uddf8 (@PALESTINE ONLINE \ud83c\uddf5\ud83c\uddf8) 1684161920
The Nakba commemorations come as the Israel Defense Forces and the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant resistance group agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on Saturday following five days of fighting in which at least 33 Palestinians, including numerous children, were killed.
Palestinians point to Israel's continuing violent repression as evidence that the Nakba continues 75 years after the events of 1948.
That was the year that David Ben-Gurion—who would become Israel's first prime minister—and his inner circle drafted Plan Dalet, a blueprint for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine's Arabs, whose lands Jews coveted as they fought to establish the modern state of Israel amid a British withdrawal from Mandatory Palestine prompted by increasing Zionist terrorism.
\u201c75 years ago, a horrific event forever changed the lives of Palestinians. \n\nHere's what happened.\n\n#Nakba #Nakba75\u201d— IMEU (@IMEU) 1684159468
According to official orders, "the principal objective of the operation is the destruction of Arab villages" and their replacement with Jewish ones. Often, the mere threat of violence was enough to coerce Arabs from their homes, but sometimes appalling slaughter was required to induce flight. In the most infamous of what Israeli historian Benny Morris has identified as 24 Zionist massacres during the Nakba, more than 100 Arab men, women, and children were murdered by Jewish militias at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948.
Jewish ethnic cleansing of Arabs accelerated after the allied Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Syrian armies invaded Palestine in a bid to smother the nascent Israeli state in its cradle. On July 11, 1948, Moshe Dayan—a future Israeli foreign and defense minister—led an assault on Lydda in which over 250 men, women, and children were massacred with automatic weapons, grenades, and cannon. What followed, on future Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's orders, was the wholesale expulsion of Arabs from Lydda and Ramle—a war crime known today as the Lydda Death March.
\u201cUS media @voxdotcom has finally done something they've never done before:\n\nThey have dared. \n\nThey just released a video of the Nakba an hour ago to their YouTube channel. An objective & factual account of the events as they were. \n\nHere's the segment about Deir Yassin.\u201d— \u0631\u0648\u0646\u064a \u0627\u0644\u062f\u0646\u0645\u0627\u0631\u0643\u064a (@\u0631\u0648\u0646\u064a \u0627\u0644\u062f\u0646\u0645\u0627\u0631\u0643\u064a) 1684158809
The international community was outraged by these events. In the United States, a group of prominent Jews including Albert Einstein excoriated the "terrorists" who attacked Deir Yassin. Others compared the Jewish militias to their would-be German destroyers, including Aharon Cizling, Israel's first agriculture minister, who lamented that "now Jews have behaved like Nazis."
When it was all over, more than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed or abandoned, their denizens—some of whom still hold the keys to their stolen homes—have yet to return. Today, they and their descendants number more than 7 million, all of whom have been denied the right of return guaranteed under U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
\u201cZionist soldier, while laughing in an Interview with the Israeli channel Hot 8:\n\n"We put Palestinians in cages and killed them. One of us raped a sixteen-year-old girl; some of us ran after them with flame throwers and burned them."\u201d— In Context (@In Context) 1670422450
Meanwhile, Israeli officials have gone to great lengths to bury evidence that the Nakba happened while presenting a distorted narrative in which Arabs purportedly consider the "catastrophe" the birth of Israel, not the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
"The thought that an international organization could mark the establishment of one of its member states as a catastrophe or disaster is both appalling and repulsive," Erdan wrote in his letter to fellow U.N. ambassadors.
\u201cPalestinian elderly woman from Gaza still has the key to her house located in the 1948-occupied Palestinian lands where she used to live before she was displaced with her husband by the lsraeli zionist groups in the 1948 Nakba.\u201d— Oday Mohammed (@Oday Mohammed) 1684172305
However, as Monday's U.N. commemorations attest, Palestinians remain committed to keeping the memory of the Nakba alive as an integral part of their freedom struggle. As Ben-Gurion presciently said of the Palestinians back in 1938, "A people which fights against the usurpation of its land will not tire so easily."