Boeung Kak villagers Sao Saroeun (L) and Ly Channary pictured at the Appellate Court in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
Sao Sareoun and Ly Chanary, the two land-rights activists arrested outside the three-hour trial of 13 women from Boeung Kak lake in May, hope an easing of bail conditions is a sign authorities are planning to drop charges against them.
The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that the pair no longer had to report to authorities once a fortnight – a condition of their release from pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison in mid-June.
“The [court] has allowed us to report to authorities once a month rather than twice a month like before,” Sareoun said.
“They’ve done this so our incomes aren’t affected as much when we report to them.”
The pair, who have been charged with occupying state land and obstructing public officials in aggravating circumstances – the same charges as the 13 women – were arrested as they arrived at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on May 24 to act as witnesses for the women, who were being tried without a lawyer.
Those women were sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but were released on appeal on June 27, although their convictions remain.
“Our trial will be in the next month,” Sareoun said. “We hope the court will drop the charges. We have done nothing wrong, so I said hope we will leave the court free.”
Meanwhile, about 100 residents from the Boeung Kak and Borei Keila communities continued to protest for the release of two women, Yorm Bopha from Boeung Kak and Tim Sakmony from Borei Keila, who they say have been unjustly targeted for their role in land protests and ordered to serve pre-trial detention in Prey Sar.
Amid a heavy police presence as they marched petitions to the World Bank and European Union offices, Nget Khun, 72, one of the 13 women locked in Prey Sar, said the authorities could end the Boeung Kak land dispute by demarcating 12.4 hectares promised to villagers and by releasing Bopha.
“Otherwise, I must fight to protect my land, even if I die,” she said.
Borei Keila resident representative Ou Bunla said targeting Sakmony was another way of the authorities avoiding solving the housing problem in her community.
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at [email protected]