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Activist Tep Vanny makes new bid for release from Cambodia prison

Huot Chansovann, sister of jailed land activist Tep Vanny, submits a petition on Monday asking for her release. Facebook
Huot Chansovann, sister of jailed land activist Tep Vanny, submits a petition on Monday asking for her release. Facebook

Activist Tep Vanny makes new bid for release from Cambodia prison

Boeung Kak community land activist Tep Vanny is making another bid for release in a case that sent her to prison over a 2013 protest outside the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Vanny’s sister, Huot Chansovann, filed a petition on Monday to Hun Sen’s cabinet and the Ministry of Justice seeking a royal pardon or a reduction of her 30-month sentence, though a Justice Ministry official said he had not received a request for pardon for Vanny.

Speaking to reporters in front of the cabinet after submitting the petition, Chansovann said that she had filed the request on the occasion of the Buddhist celebration Visak Bochea – to be held this year on April 29 – which traditionally sees a number of pardons for prisoners.

“This time I have more hope than before, because Visak Bochea is a major day in Buddhism, and the King usually grants a lot of pardons, and I expect one of my sisters to be named too,” she said. “Also, Vanny is not guilty like the court accuses her, so please help her children.”

Vanny is serving a 30-month prison sentence for a 2013 protest that turned violent. She is also serving a six-month sentence for a separate protest outside City Hall.

Chansovann said that Vanny’s family was struggling, with small children and elderly mothers putting a burden on their financial resources. She asked the prime minister to submit a request to the King to immediately release Vanny, who has been jailed since August 2016, or reduce her sentence.

She said it was the third time that she had filed a petition, the last time being mid-March.

Read more: A year of ‘hell’ in Prey Sar for Tep Vanny

Kong Chamroeun, a Justice Ministry official, said they reviewed the petition and forwarded it, but declined to comment further.

Meanwhile, a total of 228 prisoners requested reductions to their sentences or pardons for Visak Bochea, according to Soch Sophanara, deputy general director of the General Department of Courts and Crime at the Justice Ministry.

Sophanara said Vanny’s name was not found among those requests.

Sophanara said prisoners would need to have served at least one-third or two-thirds of their sentences to be eligible for reductions or pardons, respectively. Behaviour is also taken into consideration, as is the seriousness of the crime.

He added that about 10 percent of the 228 prisoners were foreigners.

During Khmer New Year, 50 prisoners were pardoned or saw their punishments reduced. Last year, 35 prisoners were granted clemency for Visak Bochea.

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