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Boeung Kak children’s tearful plea

Boeung Kak children’s tearful plea

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A young girl from the Boeung Kak lake community cries during a protest outside the Ministry of Justice in Phnom Penh yesterday. Protesters called for the release of 15 residents jailed last month. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Children of imprisoned Boeung Kak lake women pleaded for their mothers’ release outside the Ministry of Justice yesterday.

The demonstration, which included more than 200 Boeung Kak residents and activist monk Loun Savath, was held on the eve of International Children’s Day.

It also coincided with more than 100 NGOs writing a letter to the World Bank asking it not to end its suspension of new loans to Cambodia.

Children sang about their mothers, 13 of whom were convicted to two and a half years in prison on May 24 after a three-hour trial, and called for the government to “free the 15”, who also include two who were arrested the day of the trial. All 15 are in Prey Sar prison.

Heng Sreyleak, 13, the daughter of Heng Mom, said the charges were “unjust”.

“All they were doing was protesting for the 12.44 hectares of land promised to them by . . . Hun Sen,” she said.

The World Bank suspended all new loans to Cambodia last year, indicating it would not issue more until the government reached an agreement with Boeung Kak villagers.

Hun Sen pledged 12.44 hectares of land to residents in August, but that land is yet to be marked and some families remain without titles.

Amid fears the World Bank is set to lift its suspension, 116 organisations sent an open letter to the bank’s president, Robert Zoellick, and presidential-elect Jim Yong Kim yesterday.

“Now is the wrong time to end the suspension,” the letter reads. “Doing so would not only risk undoing gains made, but would also send a dangerous message to the [government] in light of the spate of recent killings and unwarranted jailing of activists.”

Demonstrators yesterday delivered a petition to Bun Yai Narin, director of the Ministry of Justice’s cabinet. “I feel pity on them when I see their little children crying and asking for their mothers,” he said.

Activist monk Loun Savath, who was detained last Thursday and released after being “forced” to sign a document agreeing to stay away from protests, blessed the children.

He told the Post he was not worried about being detained.

“I worry about Cambodia. It is a dark situation right now relating to human rights,” Loun Savath said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at [email protected]

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