Close to 20 Boeung Kak lake activists petitioned the European Union and World Bank yesterday asking for their intervention on behalf of jailed fellow activist Tep Vanny and a swift resolution to their land dispute.
Vanny is facing trial later this month for obstructing public officials at a 2011 protest outside City Hall and is under investigation for a 2013 protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house demanding the release of Boeung Kak activist Yorm Bopha.
Aside from Vanny, the petition asks the World Bank to address the group’s long-standing land dispute. The bank has previously been at the centre of a firestorm for its funding of a land-titling program prior to residents’ forcible eviction.
“Boeung Kak villagers request the EU and World Bank to intervene for Tep Vanny’s release – she was detained unjustly,” the petition reads. “Also, take action for the rest of the villagers who have not yet got a resolution or land titles from the Phnom Penh governor.”
Since 2013, while hundreds of villagers have been granted land titles an estimated 40 families are either awaiting titles or compensation for land lost.
Land activist Bov Sophea said the EU is a major donor to Cambodia, and as a “human rights monitor” the villagers were asking for the institution’s help.
While speaking to the media outside the World Bank, the villagers had a small skirmish with Daun Penh security guards, who did not want them talking to the press near the bank’s front gate.
The petition was received by staffers at both institutions, with a World Bank spokesman only confirming receipt of the document. The EU’s ambassador to Cambodia, George Edgar, said he was still considering what action to take in this case.
“In this case as in other cases, we look to the Cambodian court system to act transparently and fairly, in line with Cambodia’s domestic and international commitments,” he said.