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Human Rights Watch urges land rights activist Tep Vanny’s release

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny is escorted by officials into the Supreme Court last year. Hong Menea

Human Rights Watch urges land rights activist Tep Vanny’s release

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday urged authorities in the Kingdom to immediately release prominent land rights activist Tep Vanny whom they claim has been imprisoned on “fabricated charges” for the past two years.

HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson claimed the charges that have held Vanny in jail for two years are fake, and represent a misuse of the country’s legal system.

“Tep Vanny should be released immediately. This is just one of many outrageous cases in which the authorities have misused Cambodia’s justice system to harass and imprison peaceful land rights activists.

“Tep Vanny’s plight should be at the centre of demands by foreign governments and donors to the Cambodian authorities to immediately release all political prisoners,” he claimed.

Hourt Chansovann, 44, Vanny’s older sister, visited her last Sunday and claimed her condition was deteriorating.

“I have appealed and requested that the prime minister intervene in such cases and release my sister. Her condition is not good. She was very pale and had difficulty breathing.

“I heard that the Supreme Court will summon her on August 24. I will be there, and I am always there to support her. My sister did not do anything wrong,” she claimed.

The Post was able to read a letter written by Vanny in prison in which she expressed concern that the government was keeping her in prison to send a message to other activists in her community.

Vanny stands charged with “insulting public officials” and was handed a six-day prison sentence for leading the “Black Monday” protests which demanded the release of allegedly wrongfully detained human rights activists.

In 2011, she and three others were handed six-month sentences for a scuffle with security guards outside City Hall.

Her appeal, in that case, was rejected in February. Vanny was slapped with a 30-month prison term by the Appeal Court, this time for allegedly instigating violence at a protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh in 2013.

The third case against Vanny and five other activists began from alleged threats toward a former Boeung Kak resident.

Vanny claims that all the cases are politically motivated.

Her neighbour Bo Chhorvy who was also handed a six-month sentence in 2011 for the City Hall scuffle, said if the courts were independent, Vanny wouldn’t be in jail.

“This is very unjust. I was also charged with six months in prison ... they were very angry with us because we protested over the Boeung Kak land,” she said.

“On August 15, we will have a ceremony to pray for Vanny’s release. We will celebrate it at her house and invite monks to conduct a blessing. I miss her a lot as we are like siblings. She was also a victim of the land dispute,” she said.

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