The Court of Appeal will today hear the case of Boeung Kak lake activist Yorm Bopha, who has spent the past 275 days in prison, accused of ordering an axe and screwdriver attack on two motodops.
Since her arrest in September, the 29-year-old has been a divisive figure. On one side, Bopha’s supporters and rights groups have said her arrest and subsequent sentencing to three years in prison was designed to silence her community’s enduring dissent.
On the other side, an army of motodops, members of the Cambodia for Confederation Development Association (CCDA), say Bopha masterminded a bloody assault, carried out by her two brothers, on two of their comrades.
On the eve of the trial, both sides were confident of justice yesterday and vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court if judges don’t rule in their favour.
“I hope the Appeal Court will drop the charges against my wife and free her,” Bopha’s husband Luon Sakhon said.
Like he’s done many times since Bopha’s arrest, CCDA president E Sophors again accused Boeung Kak activists and NGOs of wrongly linking the assault case to an enduring land dispute.
He also called on the International Labour Organization and UNICEF to investigate whether the Boeung Kak community’s use of child protesters was exploitation. “Two hundred children have been persuaded . . . to join the parade along the streets and in front of ministries and . . . the Appeal Court,” he said. “This is against their rights.”
One of the NGOs Sophors criticised, Amnesty International, again called for Bopha’s release, saying allegations against her were “spurious”.
“The lack of credible evidence against Yorm Bopha suggests that the charges were baseless and she should not have been convicted,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty deputy Asia Pacific director. In the past year, the Court of Appeal has ordered the release of Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando and 13 women from Boeung Kak – all of whom rights groups say were arrested for political rather than criminal reasons. None of those, however, have escaped conviction.
Additional reporting by Shane Worrell