The Appeal Court this morning upheld a two and a half year sentence for Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny for her alleged involvement in a 2013 protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh that turned violent.
Presiding Judge Pol Sam Oeun said the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict to sentence the prominent activist to 30 months in prison was upheld and that he found no fault in the lower court’s decision.
“The council sees that there was violence that happened and complied with the charge of ‘violence with aggravating circumstances’, and that decision of the municipal court was correct,” he said, referring to the three-judge panel.
Vanny was convicted last September for allegedly ordering an attack on around 200 Daun Penh security guards, police and military police personnel as she and fellow activists attempted to deliver a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home near the Independence Monument. Vanny has denied instigating violence, insisting the protesters were the victims. About 10 activists were injured as the security forces violently dispersed the crowd.
The lake resident was sentenced to 30 months, fined 5 million riel ($1,240) and ordered to pay 4 million and 5 million riel in compensation to plaintiffs and Daun Penh security guards Hao Hoeurn and Ouk Ratana, respectively.
Three Boeung Kak residents – Ngeth Khun, Kong Chantha and Bo Chhorvy – who were present as they were witnesses, erupted in criticisms of the court on hearing the verdict, with Vanny herself yelling at court officials in between tears.
“Unjust! Unjust! Put me in jail if you think this would bring benefit to the nation. You arrest female land [rights] victims in jail. Today, I am in jail, next day you would be in jail,” she yelled, as she was forcefully put into a prison van.
Around 50 supporters broke out into tears and began chanting and yelling insults at the court, with some of them starting an impromptu “cursing ceremony” involving incense sticks and lotus stems. Boeung Kak resident Khun could be seen smashing coconuts and lotus flowers as she yelled, “second Pol Pot, second Pol Pot”.
Vanny has been in jail since last August when she was convicted of “public insult” for conducting a cursing ceremony as part of the civil society-initiated “Black Monday” protests, and has since had three other cases, including today’s, resurrected.
The trial, which started on July 27, again had plaintiffs Hoeurn and Ratana skipping court, with prosecutor Sar Yos Thavrak questioning Vanny’s intention to go to the premier’s home. “You stormed into his house. This is your mistake,” he said, at the time.