In Cambodia, AJWS focuses on two critical human rights issues: protecting peoples’ civil and political rights, and defending rural communities’ rights to land, water and other natural resources that they depend on for survival.

The Problems

Just a few decades ago, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime killed more than a million of its own citizens, broke apart the social fabric of communities and created a culture of fear. Today, the country still struggles with that violent legacy. Cambodia operates under a repressive and corrupt government that intimidates citizens and muzzles free speech. Young people—women, in particular—rarely have a voice in their communities, and those who identify as LGBT often face violence and discrimination.

The Cambodian government has taken ownership of more than half of the land suitable for farming, displacing low-income communities that relied on the land to make a living. New hydroelectric dam projects are expected to devastate hundreds of communities dependent on rivers and lakes for their health and income. Local indigenous people are rarely consulted as these development projects proceed, let alone provided with fair compensation for their land. Chea Dara, a 33-year-old mother of two, took her life after she learned of her family’s pending eviction after years of struggling with the government over the land dispute.

YRDP in Cambodia
A group of leaders and changemakers of AJWS grantee Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), which empowers university students to exercise their civil and political rights for the good of their country. Photo by Christine Han

Our Solutions

AJWS is committed to helping Cambodia’s people advocate for human rights. Our grantees are:

  • Building the leadership of youth, women, indigenous people and other marginalized groups to usher in a new era of democracy and diverse political participation
  • Educating these groups about their human rights and how to advocate for change
  • Organizing communities to lobby for improved legal protections to prevent land grabs and other harmful development tactics
  • Assisting indigenous communities in applying for community land titles
  • Raising awareness about unjust laws and lack of government accountability through radio, social media and community discussions

Cambodia ranked #156 on Transparency International’s 2014 corruption index—out of 175 countries total.

Build a Better World


More than a half-million people in Cambodia have been affected by land conflicts involving the government.

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Women make up about 90 percent of the garment industry labor force in Cambodia, which is the country’s largest source of export earnings.

Build a Better World