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B Kak protest convictions upheld on appeal

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Detained activists from the Boeung Kak lake community are escorted through a media scrum earlier this morning at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh before being read the verdict in their case. Hong Menea

B Kak protest convictions upheld on appeal

A group of 10 women, including seven well-known Boeung Kak lake activists, and a monk arrested and convicted at breakneck speed in November had their convictions upheld at the Appeal Court this morning.

But most of the group – who were part of two separate cases – had their sentences and fines slightly reduced, according to Presiding Judge Nguon Im’s verdict.

Five of seven Boeung Kak women who allegedly blocked traffic on Monivong Boulevard during a November 10 protest had their sentences, handed out just a day after their arrests, reduced from one year to 10 months.

Kong Chantha, Song Srey Leap, Bo Chhovy, Nong Sreng and Phan Chhunreth were also ordered to pay a fine of 1.5 million riel, about $375, instead of the original 2 million.

Tep Vanny, the most well-known of the seven, did not receive a reduced sentence, but Nget Khun, a 75-year-old known universally as “mummy”, had her sentenced and fine halved to six months and one million riel.

Vanny’s fine was dropped to 1.5 million riel.

Separately, three of the four in the second case – who were arrested on November 11 while protesting outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the release of the Boeung Kak seven – had their sentenced reduced.

They were all convicted on November 12 for “intentionally inciting violence against a public authority”.

Im Srey Touch, Heng Pich and Phoung Sopheap were given 10 months. Their fines were dropped from two million to 1.5 million riel.

But Soeun Hai, a monk from Stung Meanchey pagoda, like Vanny, had his one-year sentence and 2 million riel fine upheld.

Judge Im said this was because he is a Buddhist monk but had “destroyed the religion” with his alleged actions.

Hopes had been high that the Boeung Kak seven would be acquitted, given one of three judges at Friday’s appeal hearing had cast doubt on whether the group had actually obstructed traffic.

The immediate reaction to the verdict outside the court was despondent.

Nou Chivoan, the 16-year-old son of Nong Sreng, was inconsolable. He lay on the footpath next to a portrait of his mother.
“This is injustice for my mother. She has not done anything wrong. She just protested to demand that City Hall intervene to help pump sewage water [out of our houses],” he said between fits of tears.

“But the authorities and the court have instead only arrested and detained my mother.”

Representatives from local rights groups on the scene also condemned the Appeal Court verdict, citing a lack of evidence and alleging the court’s decision was motivated by the government’s spite towards the longtime activists. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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