The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced each of four Boeung Kak land activists to one year in prison and a two million riel ($500) fine on Monday for intentional acts of violence. But the four women have long regarded the charge as unjust.

The four convicted were identified as Nhet Khun, known as Mummy, and her three daughters – Eng Huoy, Eng Srey Heang and Eng Sokha.

Judge Ros Samidy said the verdict would be displayed in public for one week to allow the convicts to file an appeal before the verdict becomes effective.

If no appeal is filed to the Appeal Court, the four will be detained in prison in accordance with the court order, Judge Samidy said.

Eng Sokha told The Post on Monday that the court’s verdict was unfair because, at all the previous court hearings, her family’s statements were exaggerated to incriminate them.

She said that from the beginning of court procedures until the verdict was announced, the plaintiff was not present, but the court still found them guilty.

“The court is not independent. We were the victims in this and the court did not provide justice to us. Because we are land activists, they treat us like criminals. As for the incident, my sister and I were not even there. My sister clarified that in the hearing, but the court still punished us,” Sokha said.

Intentional violence

She said her family will file an appeal and will continue to seek justice. They would like to request the help of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s legal team to defend their case, she said, because they are poor women with no means to hire proper lawyers.

“We barely have enough to eat. We don’t have money to hire a lawyer. We’re looking for intervention and assistance from the prime minister’s volunteer legal team."

“If we [don’t get help from them], we will still file a complaint – just without a defence lawyer to represent us,” she said.

In June 2017, a woman named Sat Pha accused the four Boeung Kak land activists of intentional violence and loss of personal property.

Pha filed a complaint to Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune and the municipal court to seek damages after an alleged financial loss resulting from violent conflict in front of the al-Serkal mosque.

After receiving the complaint, the court summoned the family to attend a series of hearings, but Pha said she had never once been summoned to the court.

’Unjust verdict’

Soeung Sen Karuna, the spokesman for human rights group Adhoc, said although the case involved a conflict that he had not followed, he believed the court’s verdict to be unjust because it is normal legal procedure for all involved parties, especially the plaintiff, to be summoned to court.

“How accurate is the court ruling? It’s strange. How did the hearing proceed if the court never summoned the plaintiff? The court seems not to have carefully reviewed the case according to legal procedures,” he said.

Sen Karuna said if the court would like to avoid criticism, it should try not to create any doubt. He said the women were apparently only protecting their land rights and demanding social justice.

If the court’s verdict was not transparent and clear, Sen Karuna said, it was inevitable that some people would claim justice had not been done.