About Luc Forsyth
Luc Forsyth is a freelance photojournalist and writer who specializes in social and humanitarian storytelling. This is his blog, a place to share photography, writing and ideas.
You can contact Luc at email@example.com
Luc is a collaborating member of the Ruom Collective. Bringing together journalists, researchers, videographers, and photographers, the collective provides an opportunity to exchange and share information - providing multiple perspectives and more depth to long-term documentary projects.
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- Monks Begin Protest Marches Ahead of Human Rights Day December 5, 2013
- 5 Reasons to Set Aside Your Ego: The Benefits of Working Together December 3, 2013
- What Do Monks Eat For Breakfast? November 21, 2013
- Underwater Gold Miners in Southern Leyte November 14, 2013
- March of the Monks: Black and White November 12, 2013
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Category Archives: Protest
The 2013 International Human Rights Day on December 10th will mark one of the largest and most coordinated anti-government protests in Cambodian history. The current Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has been running a de facto one party state in the small Southeast Asian nation, and has an abysmal human rights record. But the tides of fortune seem to be turning on the region’s longest ruling strongman, with his Cambodian People’s Party losing 55 assembly seats in the 2013 national election – elections that were widely suspected of being rigged.
Multiple demonstrations will converge on Phnom Penh’s National Assembly building, including large groups of politically active Buddhist monks. Though monks participation in protests has been an emerging trend in Cambodia recently, the scale of the actions planned for December 10th will be the largest yet. Separate parties will travel down every major national highway, combining forces and joining similar protests from the main opposition party, and the garment workers union. The monks will be walking for roughly 10 days, spreading their social views to the villages they pass through.
These images are from just one group of monks, along only one of the marching routes. When they finally merge in the capital next week, their numbers will have swollen into the hundreds. Though everyone is hoping that the government will not react harshly in light of it being Human Rights Day, foreign journalists are stocking up on anti-teargas supplies and riot protection gear in anticipation of violence.
The Ruom Collective will be dispatching three photographers and three writers to cover various aspects of the events as they unfold, and we will be sharing them as the happen.
My friend and fellow Phnom Penh photojournalist, Thomas Cristofoletti, called me a week ago and asked nonchalantly if I wanted to go walk into the jungle with a group of forty monks. Truth be told, I really didn’t have any idea what he was talking about – but it seemed like a fantastic proposition nevertheless. It’s the first time I’ve been asked that question anyways, and I wouldn’t have been able to respect myself had I said no.
Several days later, when I was crossing rivers in the black of night, it seemed less fantastic.
The monks, working in partnership with several non-profit organizations, were heading to the remote Arang valley in western Cambodia in order to raise awareness about the dangers of deforestation. The only way to get to the village of Pra Lay, where the bulk of the monk’s demonstration was scheduled to take place, was along a winding dirt path of unknown distance.
In the beginning we were under the impression the walk would be about 16km, which is, though strenuous on an uneven jungle road, very manageable. Halfway through the walk, rumours began to circulate that the actual length of the trail was over 30km. In the end, the most agreed upon number seemed to be around 25km, but that element of not knowing how much longer made things all the more tiring when we were still walking at midnight.
I was wearing tough leather boots, while the monks wore battered leather or rubber sandals. Add to that the fact that Buddhist monks do not eat anything after 12 p.m., and so had been walking for more than eight hours on empty stomachs. Together with a young monk, Prim Huon, I was the first to arrive on foot at 1.33 a.m; many of the older monks who had fallen behind didn’t straggle in until around 4.
Since I haven’t finished the editing yet and have spent most of the day slogging through audio transcriptions of the interviews I conducted, I’m just going to share a handful of images as a preview. The rest of the story will be ready by early next week.
This is one of the first cases where monks have come together in a large group to protest environmental destruction, and I look forward to sharing it more fully.
The first in depth photo project I did in Cambodia was focused on the forced eviction of the Borei Keila community. A year later, the situation barely seems to have changed. The residents of Borei Keila are still waiting on adequate compensation from either the government or the land development corporation, and it doesn’t seem like either entity has made the issue a top priority.
In an attempt to force a resolution to the situation, the residents turned to one of the only weapons at their disposal: public protest.
Marches and rallies have becoming increasingly popular in Phnom Penh, and the ubiquity of smartphone-toting citizen journalists suggests that Cambodians are taking cues from the Arab Spring uprisings.
On October 30th, the residents of Borei Keila met at 8.30 in the morning to began their march. But before they had set out from their community, the police had established the first of many road blocks the day would see.
With this initial obstacle overcome, the protestors marched out of Borei Keila and towards the Peace Palace – the ironically named building which houses the offices of the top government officials.
It only stands to reason that a violent reaction from the officers would bring much needed international attention to the Borei Keila cause , and so for nearly an hour they pushed, jostled, and attempted to generally provoke the police as they shouted their message.
Though the regular police forces acted with relative restraint, when the protestors left the Peace Palace and blocked traffic on Monivong Boulevard near City Hall, more aggressive blue-clad security officers moved into the fray and seized an unidentified man from the crowd. Neither Cambodian nor foreign journalists were able to learn why this man was targeted; rumours circulated that they had actually been after a journalist and had taken the wrong person.
Rumours aside, the man wan dragged inside the walled City Hall compound and allegedly beaten. In response, the protestors rushed the gates and threw food and debris over the fence, but the fate of the man was unclear.
In the face of this violence, the marchers returned to Borei Keila to plan their next move, postponing plans to occupy a building being built by the same land developer responsible for their evictions years before.
The issue of land grabbing and forced evictions in Cambodia is ongoing, and this protest was just one event in what will surely be an ongoing campaign.
I’ve been completely swamped recently trying to meet a writing deadline, so I apologize for the lack of posts recently.
Since taking part in the North Korean Repatriation protests outside the Chinese embassy a few weeks ago, I’ve started to build up a contact base among some North Korean defectors. With the help of my friend Moon Yeong acting as translator, I’ve been able to start interviewing some of these people and we’ve heard some amazing stories. The process has been slow as many defectors are nervous about having their photo taken (many have families remaining in North Korea and they will face harsh punishments if it is discovered they are related to a defector), but it promises to be a great project.
Here are a couple of nice images of the evening protests, held every night. The full stories will be coming as soon as I can get caught up with my assignments.
The international media loves North Korea. It seems like a perfect example of a place of repression where life is tough and the hardships are never ending. So it is not surprising to read accounts of people so desperate to get out that they will risk not only their own life, but the lives of anyone they have any sort of close relationship with. Since three armies (South Korean, North Korean and American) fortify the Southern border, the only way out of the world’s last truly closed country is North, into China. Would be escapees must swim across the Yalu/Amnok river and hope to be accepted as refugees on the other side. The punishment for getting caught, to the best of my knowledge, is summary execution.
If they are successful in getting into China, the refugees then begin the laborious process of trying to start a new life. Many head to South Korea where they are given instant asylum and citizenship. Some resettle in South East Asia, and some relocate to whichever Western countries are willing to take them. But what if these people go through the harrowing ordeal of sneaking past security forces and swimming to their perceived freedom only to be seized by Chinese authorities and unceremoniously shipping back to North Korea to face their almost certain death?
This is the most recent challenge facing North Korean defectors, 31 of whom were apparently “repatriated” in secret this month. And since the 100-days of mourning for the death of Kim Jong-Il is still in effect, Kim Jong-Eun, his son, has mandated that anyone guilty of attempting escape during this period will be punished by having three generations of their family exterminated.
This has caused an outcry among human rights groups and North Korean refugees around the world, those in Seoul being no exception, against the Chinese policy. These images are from a protest outside the Chinese embassy where several activists are camped out on a hunger strike. One man I met had gone 22 days without eating and was barely able to stand up.
They were very welcoming and pleased that I was interested in their cause, and it looks hopeful that I’ll be able to do a more in depth project about the lives of North Korean refugees. More to come.
To view the full image gallery, click HERE.
Well into the second month of protesting, demonstrators gather around Seoul’s city hall in the hundreds, despite the sub-zero weather.
Initially signed in 2007, adjustments to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement in February 2011 give American companies increased advantages when entering the South Korean market. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, “Once it enters into force, the Agreement will be the United States’ most commercially significant free trade agreement in more than 16 years.”
Many Koreans are less than supportive of the agreement, however, feeling that it is one sided and will benefit American interests above those of Korea. While large conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai stand to make substantial profits by gaining tariff-free access to U.S. customers, many Korean industries – such as agriculture and entertainment – feel they may be overwhelmed by American competitors.
The anti-FTA protests closer resemble a music festival than a violent confrontation. Performers dominate the small stage, singing about Korean President Lee Myun Bak’s American subservience and the evils of corporate greed. The scene hardly looks threatening.
Yet hours before the crowds gather, hundreds of police vehicles including buses, armoured cars and riot control vans arrive at City Hall. Riot police in the thousands spread out around the area in full body armour.
There are no indicators of agression by either the police or the protestors, and the demonstration winds down as the sun sets and the temperature drops. As people attempt to leave the area, however, they find that the sidewalks have been blocked off, preventing access to the subway station. With no way around, the tension escalates.
The situation reaches its peak when a young girl is trampled after being pulled beneath the police lines.
Realizing that they are exacerbating an otherwise peaceful group of people, police commanders abandon the sidewalk blockades and instead redeploy their men to protect local hotels and businesses.
As quickly as they began, the hostilities cease. Protestors leave the area to seek warmth, and the police withdraw to their vehicles.
It seems unlikely that the protestors will prevail. South Korea’s current government is highly conservative, and President Lee is an individual with powerful corporate connections – he is a former top executive of the Hyundai Construction Corporation, and it is widely believed that many of his political decisions are based on the company’s interests. With the massive police presence (at least three officers to every protestor), President Lee seems to be more focused on demonstrating the power of the state rather than responding to public opinion.
The United States was once among the most popular countries for South Koreans, with many Koreans believing in the power of the American Dream. But the golden age of public relations seems to be dwindling, and many have become disillusioned with the U.S.
It remains to be seen whether or not the protests will have any affect on the FTA proceedings. Despite the weather, demonstrations can are scheduled every weekend at City Hall and Gwanghwamun station, and can be attended by anyone who is interested.
To see the full image gallery, click here.