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Ministry eyes Boeung Kak sentence

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Members of the Boeung Kak lake and Borei Keila communities protest in Phnom Penh last week. The demonstrators wore hats decorated with photographs of 15 activists who were jailed last month. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The Ministry of Justice has called on the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to re-examine whether the decision to sentence 13 Boeung Kak women to two and a half years in jail was just, according to a letter obtained by the Post yesterday.

“This case is in the jurisdiction of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, so the ministry has forwarded this [a petition from Boeung Kak villagers] to the court to re-examine and resolve this issue with transparency and justice,” the letter, dated May 31, reads.

The letter was drafted after Boeung Kak villagers sent a petition to the ministry asking for the release of the 13 women and Boeung Kak villagers arrested during a house-building demonstration on May 22 and two others arrested at the trial.

Phnom Penh deputy prosecutor Cheth Khemra said yesterday he was not in charge of the Boeung Kak villagers’ cases and knew nothing about a letter from the ministry.

“I do not have any information concerning this letter,” he said.

The 13 women were charged with disputing authority and trespassing on development firm Shukaku’s land at Boeung Kak. They were sentenced to between one and two-and-a-half years in Prey Sar prison after a three-hour trial on May 24.

Chiv Keng, president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, and Yeth Chakrya, the court’s chairman, were not available for comment yesterday, while Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana could not be reached.

Meanwhile, Ou Kong Chea, the husband of imprisoned village representative Tep Vanny, said yesterday that two more women had joined a hunger strike that began on Sunday, taking the number to six.

“I am extremely concerned about them,” he said.

Ou Kong Chea said a doctor from rights group Licadho had been co-operating with medical staff inside the prison and told him the strikers were “weaker” than the other women.

Harm Sunrith, the women’s lawyer, said he will visit them on the weekend.

“I am extremely concerned about the health of my clients, because it can result in death if they remain on a hunger strike,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at sophakchakrya.khouth@phnompenhpost.com

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