Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Boeung Kak activists’ release sought

Boeung Kak activists’ release sought

Boeung Kak lake activist Nget Khun
Boeung Kak lake activist Nget Khun, calls to community members from a window at Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month after she was detained by authorities. Vireak Mai

Boeung Kak activists’ release sought

As 10 land-rights activists and a monk prepare to take their appeal against one-year prison terms to the Appeal Court today, rights groups yesterday called for an end to government influence over the judiciary.

“It’s time for Cambodia’s courts to act professionally and independently from the executive and stop the judicial harassment of land rights defenders and peaceful protesters,” said Karim Lahidji, president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in a joint statement with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

Criticism of the charges against the 11 – arrested over two days in November and all convicted and imprisoned about 24 hours later – also came from rights group Amnesty International.

“These activists are victims of the Cambodian authorities’ relentless crackdown on peaceful protests – they should never have been prosecuted in the first place, let alone jailed,” said Janice Beanland, the organisation’s campaigner on Cambodia.

Amnesty also called on the Kingdom’s development partners to speak out against the convictions.

“Cambodia’s development partners must demand the release of the 11 activists and remind the government of its binding international legal obligation to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” she said.

For the second consecutive day, a throng of security forces confronted land activists trying to stage a monthlong protest in the capital’s public gathering space, Freedom Park, yesterday. Riot police and Daun Penh district security guards blocked the protesters and, for a short while, cornered them near the US Embassy.

“In the morning [today], we will keep protesting … in the afternoon, we will go to the Appeal Court to support the activists and the monk,” Bopha said.

They will be joined by some 500 other human rights defenders and monks who plan to gather outside court, said Bov Sophea, who represents another Boeung Kak group.

“It won’t be a demonstration or an act of putting pressure on the court,” Sophea said. “We just want to strongly support our members and representatives who have been unfairly imprisoned by a municipal court that lacks independence.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said authorities would take “administrative” measures if gatherings outside the court affected safety or public order.

Seven of those appealing were convicted under the Traffic Law for blocking a road on November 10 in protest against flooding at Boeung Kak, while the other four were arrested outside the seven’s trial the next day for allegedly inciting violence against a public official.

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 foreigners in Cambodia, the bulk being from the UK, have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly them out of the Kingdom. The petition is targeted at 15,000 foreigners. Among them are nearly 200 Europeans, the majority

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • PM set to mend ties with US

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to US Congressman Ted Yoho, saying he is ready to improve Cambodia-US relations, and not take up issues of disagreements which have become a barrier between the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. His response to Yoho came after the congressman

  • Mysterious century-old structure found at bottom of Angkor pond

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a mysterious 1,000-year-old structure of a wooden building at the bottom of a pond after the Angkor Wat temple’s conservation team completed restoring its northern cave. The deputy director at ANA’s Angkor International Research and Documentation

  • China sends more test kits

    The Ministry of Health has ramped up its preparation to stem the spread of the deadly Covid-19 disease in the Kingdom thanks to help from the Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations which donated 20,000 test kits to the Kingdom. On March 28, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang