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US hears Boeung Kak women

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Representatives of the Boeung Kak lake community wait outside the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra in Siem Reap for a meeting with US ambassador at large for Global Women’s Issues on Friday. Photograph: Bridget Di Certo / Phnom Penh Post

The US ambassador at large for Global Women’s Issues – an office in the US State Department – met with five of the Boeung Kak lake female activists on Saturday in a sidelines meeting of a Lower Mekong gender policy dialogue.

Ambassador at Large Melanne Verveer’s interest in the womens’ continuing plight comes about a month after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Washington and passed on her encouragement for the then-“Boeung Kak 15” to be released.

“It was a full hour, a very fruitful meeting,” Sam Rainsy Party opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua, who also attended the talks, said.

The women had three requests for the ambassador to pass on to Secretary Clinton.

“They want their records in court totally cleared; they want to know exactly where is this 12.44 hectares; and they want the immediate stop to the use of violence against women and children,” Sochua said on Saturday.

The women presented Verveer with a scarf they had crocheted while they were imprisoned for one month and three days on what are widely considered trumped up criminal charges.

Verveer first bought the plight of the imprisoned women to the attention of Clinton with a petition passed along to her by Sochua and she told the women she would likewise present their gift to the secretary of state.

“This meeting, it is really about dignity. The [Boeung Kak] women have struggled so much even to get here,” Sochua said. “If the father rapes his own family and then lives with them, how can there ever be justice?”

Tep Vanny, an activist leader in the Boeung Kak community, said she hoped that with the US’s help she could secure the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“It is clear that he is not even looking at this case,” Vanny said.

Vanny said that during the meeting the ambassador has expressed her heartfelt support for the women activist.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com reporting from Siem Reap
With assistance from Khouth Sophak Chakrya reporting from Phnom Penh

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