Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Activist Vanny gets 30 months, while security guards beat man in City Mall



Activist Vanny gets 30 months, while security guards beat man in City Mall

Boeung Kak lake activist Bov Sophea is dragged by officials during a violent clash outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after fellowactivist Tep Vanny’s trial yesterday.
Boeung Kak lake activist Bov Sophea is dragged by officials during a violent clash outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after fellowactivist Tep Vanny’s trial yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Activist Vanny gets 30 months, while security guards beat man in City Mall

Land activist Tep Vanny was yesterday found guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison for allegedly ordering an attack on Daun Penh security guards some four years ago.

As the verdict was being handed down inside the courtroom, security guards on the street outside were shoving and kicking Vanny’s fellow activists, chasing one man into a nearby restaurant and beating him in a videotaped incident that quickly went viral.

The charges stemmed from a 2013 clash with Daun Penh security guards outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh as she and a group of about 60 others attempted to submit a petition for the release of fellow Boeung Kak lake activist Yorm Bopha.

On the day in question, about 200 police, military police and Daun Penh guards – an untrained auxiliary force with a history of brutality at peaceful protests – violently dispersed the group, injuring about 10 of them in the process.

Vanny and two others were briefly detained and released that day, with no charges being filed.

But the nearly four-year-old case was suddenly revived in August after Vanny was arrested for participating in a “cursing ceremony” as part of the so-called Black Monday protests.

Yesterday’s verdict saw her convicted of intentional aggravated violence and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. She was also fined 5 million riel ($1,240) and ordered to pay 4 million and 5 million riel compensation, respectively, to plaintiffs Hao Hoeurn and Ouk Ratana – both Daun Penh security guards.

“I did not commit the [crime],” Vanny said, as she broke down. “I’ve never seen [Hao Hoeurn’s] face, and when I saw it I was very shocked, because he is so big. How could I beat him?”

The trial began on February 3 but was abruptly adjourned the same day by judge Long Kesor Pirum after a commotion broke out in court between one of the plaintiffs, Tep Vanny and observing activists. Pirum cited personal health issues as he postponed the hearing.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Protesters carry posters of Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny before her trial outside court yesterday. Heng Chivoan

As the trial resumed yesterday, Prampi Makara district security guards outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court attempted to disperse protesters, kicking and physically dragging them across the street. In the scuffle, two Boeung Kak residents and a pregnant woman from the Borei Keila community suffered minor injuries and fainted.

The security guards then turned their attention to 46-year-old Mao Socheat after he attempted to intervene, chasing him into a restaurant and punching him repeatedly in an incident captured on video.

Socheat, who recently applied to be a CNRP candidate in the commune elections only to later withdraw, insisted he had only been asking security to unhand the female activists.

“They came to beat me, but I tried to avoid it and fell down on the street. I got up and ran inside City Mall, because I thought I would be safe there,” he said.

Video footage of guards beating Mao Socheat in City Mall:

City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey yesterday refused to comment on Socheat’s beating, saying he had not seen the video, but defended the actions of Prampi Makara security guards.

“I do not consider this violence. It was just pushing from both sides,” he said, adding that Vanny’s supporters had been conducting an “illegal protest”.

Inside in the courtroom, three Boeung Kak residents – Nget Khun, Bo Chhorvy and Kong Chantha – testified on behalf of the defendants, saying the group’s attempt to submit a petition to the premier had not been a demonstration.

No witnesses appeared for the prosecution, though statements from the Daun Penh security guard plaintiffs – also absent – were read aloud in court.

“I heard Tep Vanny order through a loudspeaker telling protesters to go into the prime minister’s house,” Ouk Ratana said in a statement. “Another lady, who was about 50, carried a bag and beat our group, injuring the back of my head.”

Defence lawyer Sam Sokun-thea was quick to point out that the guards had accused Vanny of allegedly instigating the violence but made no attempt to arrest the other alleged perpetrators mentioned in the statements.

“There is no audio or video to show my client used violence, only the answers of the plaintiffs,” she said. “There is no strong evidence against my client.”

More than 60 civil society groups yesterday condemned both the “unjust conviction” and “outrageous violence”, adding that there was no credible evidence to support the case.

“Authorities are once again punishing Vanny for her activism to send a clear message to any who dare criticise the government that dissent is not tolerated in Cambodia,” said Naly Pilorge of Licadho.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration