Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - After prison, Bopha undeterred




After prison, Bopha undeterred

Boeung Kak lake land-rights activist Yorm Bopha is swarmed by supporters and media at Phnom Penh’s municipal police station on Friday night
Boeung Kak lake land rights activist Yorm Bopha is swarmed by supporters and media at Phnom Penh’s municipal police station on Friday night after being released on bail. Heng Chivoan

After prison, Bopha undeterred

Shelving any thoughts that 14 months in prison had deterred her from protesting, Yorm Bopha rushed to the capital’s Borei Keila community yesterday morning to try to stop authorities from forcing evictees from an abandoned building.

Bopha was one of about 10 Boeung Kak activists called on to help after military police and security guards tried to remove a number of families from a building they once lived in, resulting in a disabled man being dragged out, villagers said.

“When we had heard, we went straight there,” said Bopha, who was released on bail from prison on Friday. “We told police to stop ejecting them from the building and offer them a solution first.

“There were many of us there, so police allowed them to stay inside temporarily.”

Borei Keila evictee Tim Sakmony, 65, said a group of military police and security guards dragged her son, Uon Kang Pinith, a disabled 47-year-old recyclables collector, out of the empty building after he had joined a number of families seeking shelter inside.

“His recyclables were getting stolen downstairs, so he tried to take them up there. But they dragged and pushed him out of the building.”

The officers then left Borei Keila, in the capital’s Prampi Makara district, threatening to return later to remove the other evictees, Sakmony said. As of last night, the families were still staying on the first floor.

It’s been almost two years since hundreds of residents were violently evicted from their homes at the site.

Developer Phan Imex had agreed to build 10 high-rise buildings to house more than 1,700 families in exchange for the land on which their houses lay. However, the company built only eight of the 10 high-rises and relocated those who missed out to the squalor of relocation sites far from the capital.

Those who refused relocation have lived in tents behind the eight buildings since.

After heavy rain on Friday and Saturday, the ground on which the evictees’ tents are pitched was a mixture of mud and rubbish yesterday. The site, where everyone from small children to the elderly eat, sleep and wash in, stunk of human waste.

“Living here is getting worse because of the disgusting smell,” Sakmony said. “We are busy protesting, so we don’t have enough time to make money to buy food.”

Following her release from PJ prison on Friday evening, Bopha pledged to “struggle until she died” to keep protesting for the rights of communities such as Boeung Kak and Borei Keila.

“Even though . . . I face being arrested again, I will keep joining peaceful demonstrations to defend our rights.”

Bopha – who also joined a protest at a pagoda in Russey Keo district yesterday – said that before releasing her, authorities had warned her not to protest with fellow Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny.

“I will not stop. I need to find justice for myself and other communities,” she said.

On Friday, the Supreme Court sent her case back to the Appeal Court for a retrial.

“Even though the Supreme Court is releasing me, they still consider me guilty,” she said after the hearing. “I’m scared they will arrest me again – just like they did with Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun,” she added, referring to the two men wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of union leader Chea Vichea.

The activist was arrested in September last year, accused of ordering her brothers to beat two motodops with an axe and screwdriver at Boeung Kak.

She was sentenced to three years in prison, a term reduced to two years on appeal in June.

Bopha’s husband, Lous Sakhorn, 57, was convicted on the same charge, but his sentence was suspended.

Rights groups have called allegations against both of them baseless and aimed at silencing their community.

MOST VIEWED

  • All inbound flights set to face added scrutiny

    Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Monday that the ministry is monitoring all inbound flights, after it was announced that only those from Malaysia and Indonesia will be temporarily cancelled from August 1. Vandine said on Monday that the two countries were identified as

  • Flights from Indonesia, Malaysia cancelled

    A Ministry of Health official has warned of the possibility of Covid-19 spreading through community transmission after the total infected cases in the Kingdom rose to 225. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told reporters on Saturday that the possibility of community transmission cannot be overlooked and that

  • Man in quarantine dies of ‘overdose’

    The Ministry of Health on Thursday said a Cambodian migrant worker who died while being isolated at a quarantine centre in Tbong Khmum province’s Kroch Chhmar district may have died from syncope or overdose of tablets. In a statement, the ministry said the 21-year-old

  • Ministry set to reopen 20 schools in August

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport will allow 20 high-safety-standards schools to reopen next month despite new cases of Covid-19 in the country. Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha wrote in a Telegram message on Wednesday that the schools are in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang.