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Rallying and marching to Hun Sen’s House, requesting for new installment of electricity

23 Feb

By:Sovann My, Sahrika  February 23, 2015

This morning, around 100 people from three different communities including SOS community, Boeung Kak Lake and Borei Keila community rallied together and marched to Hun Sen’s house in order to seek for his intervention on the new installment of electricity over their households.
See photos in actions as below:

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Villagers Speak Up as Reservoir Plan Digs Into Their Rice Fields

23 Feb

By:AUN PHEAP , The Cambodia Daily, February  23, 2015

Villagers in Banteay Meanchey province on Saturday protested against a local military official’s plan to build a reservoir on their land, then sell the dirt at a profit.

The reservoir is being dug over 52 hectares in Serei Saophoan City’s Kompong Svay commune by Brigadier General Plon Dara, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Banteay Meanchey.

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Villagers gather on Saturday near an excavator beginning to dig a 52-hectare reservoir that will engulf their rice fields in Banteay Meanchey province’s Serei Saophoan City. (Adhoc)

According to villager Nem Chhun, 39, 120 people from 85 families who stand to lose their rice fields to the reservoir demonstrated outside the provincial government hall on Saturday after excavators moved in and began digging.

“We protested, demanding that the governor help us, because Mr. Plon Dara is digging up the rice fields and taking the earth for sale,” Ms. Chhun said Sunday, adding that she would lose a 2,500-square-meter plot of land if the digging continued.

“We will burn the excavators if they come back to dig up our rice fields,” she said.

Brigadier General Dara argued that the digging was lawful because his son, Plon Hong, received permission from the Ministry of Water Resources and the provincial government in 2008 to build a reservoir there for irrigation purposes.

“Provincial authorities allowed my family’s company to build the irrigation [reservoir],” he said. “The agreement stated that the company will take the earth from the rice fields and the state will get a water reservoir for irrigation.”

Ms. Chhun, however, said the planned reservoir would be of little use to the protesting villagers if they had no crops.

“We don’t need an irrigation system, because we will have lost all the land here. So how can we cultivate rice with that irrigation?” she said.

She also said the company had not shown residents a plan for the proposed reservoir, and that villagers believed the company was only seeking to excavate and sell the earth.

Provincial administration chief Chhoeun Krayong said the digging had been temporarily halted while local officials discuss the villagers’ demands.

They are asking the government to make the general’s company stop digging the reservoir and replace the earth that had been excavated so far, and are also seeking titles to their farmland, Mr. Krayong said.

“I told the [villager] representatives that we will find a solution for those families for the [first] two requests only, but we are not able to issue land titles for those families because this is state land,” he said.


Protesters Blocked From Marching to Freedom Park

6 Feb

By: Mech Dara  , The Cambodia Daily, February  06, 2015

Government security guards and riot police Thursday blocked about 50 demonstrators from marching to Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to protest for the release of 19 imprisoned anti-eviction activists, monks and opposition CNRP figures.

The protesters, which included members of the city’s embattled Boeng Kak and Borei Keila communities, planned to rally at Freedom Park before delivering a petition to the National Assembly, and gathered outside the US Embassy at about 9:45 am before marching to the park.

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A protester holds up a sign calling for the release of 19 jailed activists outside the National Assembly on Thursday. (Siv Channa / The Cambodia Daily)

But they were stopped at nearby Wat Phnom by a roughly equal number of Daun Penh district security guards and riot police.

“We will not allow you to march, as City Hall has not given you permission,” district security chief Kim Vutha told the group, adding that they would have to ride tuk-tuks to the National Assembly.

The demonstrators agreed, and successfully delivered their petition to both the National Assembly and Royal Palace before returning home.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said any future attempts by the group to protest would be prevented.



Official Defends Imprisonment Of Activists to Visiting US Envoy

28 Jan

By: Khuon Narim , The Cambodia Daily, January 28, 2015

A secretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Tuesday defended the government’s widely criticized imprisonment of 11 activists and an opposition official during a closed-door meeting with a visiting US diplomat.

Daniel Russel, an assistant secretary of state at the US government’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, visited Cambodia on Tuesday and met with Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary of State Ouch Borith.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting at the ministry in Phnom Penh, Mr. Borith said he told Mr. Russel that the media had communicated a biased representation of the November arrests of 11 activists.

“He only knows about this issue through the media,” Mr. Borith said. “The media reported that they were arrested after protesting over land issues and for expressing themselves freely ….This is not a good reputation for Cambodia. “

Seven of the activists were arrested after they placed a bed frame in the road in front of Phnom Penh City Hall to protest flooding of their Boeng Kak neighborhood. The other four were arrested the next day while protesting outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against the detention of the first seven.

All 11 were summarily tried and convicted, and sentenced to a year in prison. On Monday, the Appeal Court upheld the convictions, but reduced the sentences for nine of the activists.

Mr. Borith told reporters that police were justified in arresting the activists because they had been affecting public order.

“Cambodia was enforcing the law because those people were causing traffic problems, affecting other people’s rights and affecting … social public order,” he said.

Mr. Borith also defended the imprisonment of CNRP official Meach Sovannara, who was also arrested in November over his role in a violent clash that erupted during a protest on July 15 that left a number of district security guards with injuries.

“I do not understand,” Mr. Borith said of the criticism surrounding Mr. Sovannara’s arrest.“We had precise evidence to arrest him. You saw what happened to our security guards …. Is that right? “

In a speech at an event organized by the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace on Tuesday, a transcript of which was posted to the US State Department’s website, Mr. Russel did not directly address the wave of arrests but said that Cambodians wanted an impartial judicial system.

“They want the government to do more to clamp down on corruption and increase respect for human rights,” he said.


An ‘indefensible’ verdict

27 Jan

By:Khouth Sophak Chakrya , The Phnom Penh Post  January 27, 2015


A Boeung Kak lake supporter holds a portrait of a detained community activist during a demonstration yesterday in front of Phnom Penh’s Court of Appeal. Hong Menea

Despite hopes to the contrary, 10 female land activists, including seven well-known Boeung Kak lake protesters, and a monk, had their convictions upheld yesterday morning at theAppeal Court, two and a half months after they were arrested and sentenced to a year inprison within 24 hours of their respective arrests.

Although most received slight reductions in their prison terms and fines, it appeared to be of little consolation.

Following the verdict, the jump-suited defendants yelled and protested the “injustice” of the decision in the courtroom before being dragged out and into waiting police vans.

Two of the group – Boeung Kak community leader Tep Vanny and monk Soeun Hai – were not offered any leniency in their jail sentences by presiding judge Nguon Im.

As news of the verdict arrived outside the court, waiting family members, including a number of children, were inconsolable as they clutched portraits of their mothers, wives and daughters.

Thirty-six NGOs, rights groups and unions later slammed the verdicts as “indefensible”, saying they followed an appeal hearing “that was characterised by an almost total absence of fair trial rights”.

The seven Boeung Kak women were convicted on November 11 for blocking traffic on Monivong Boulevard with a bed during a protest the day before, in which they called on City Hall to drain floodwater from their houses.

Five of them – Kong Chantha, Song Srey Leap, Bo Chhovy, Nong Sreng and Phan Chhunreth – had two months shaved off their sentences yesterday.

They were also ordered to pay a fine of 1.5 million riel, about $375, rather than the original 2 million.

Nget Khun, the 75-year-old protest stalwart known as “mummy”, had her sentence and fine halved, meaning she has less than four months remaining to serve. Vanny had her fine reduced to 1.5 million riel but saw her prison term remain intact.


Boeung Kak Lake community activists shout to supporters from the windows of the Court of Appeal yesterday in Phnom Penh prior to their sentences being delivered. Hong Menea

During Thursday’s hearing, the judges denied a defence request to show a video that allegedly proved the women had not blocked traffic.

Separately, the three women in the second case – arrested on November 11 while protesting outside the court during the trial of the Boueng Kak seven – had their sentences reduced from one year to 10 months.

Im Srey Touch, Heng Pich and Phoung Sopheap were all convicted on November 12 for “aggravated obstruction of public officials”. Pich lives at Boeung Kak, while Srey Touch is a former resident. Their fines were also reduced from 2 million to 1.5 million riel.

But Soeun Hai, a monk from Stung Meanchey pagoda who was defrocked after his arrest, had his one-year sentence and 2-million-riel fine upheld. Hai took part in a number of protests last year outside the Vietnamese Embassy after a spokesman’s views on the history of the former Kampuchea Krom provinces sparked controversy.

In explaining his verdict and the sentence reductions, judge Im said he had tried to “offer leniency” to older and ill housewives who need to take care of their children. Hai, however, as a monk, had “damaged the national religion”, and thus was not worthy of a reduction in his sentence, he said. The decision to uphold Vanny’s jail sentence in full was not explained.

Outside, about 200 gathered activists and supporters voiced their disappointment at the verdict.

Om Sakhorn, 64, an aunt of Srey Leap, clutched a Cambodian flag as she paced in front of the court.

“There is no justice in Cambodia, please let the ICC [International Criminal Court] help Cambodian people to find justice,” she said tearfully.

Metres away, Nou Chivoan, the 16-year-old son of Nong Sreng, lay on the ground in front of a portrait of his mother.

“My mother is not guilty. Please release her,” he said.

On Friday, departing UN rights envoy Surya Subedi cited the case of the seven Boeung Kak women as one example of “how the courts are being used for political ends” in Cambodia.




Appeal Court Upholds Controversial Convictions

27 Jan

By:MECH DARA , The Phnom Penh Post  January 27, 2015

The Court of Appeal on Monday upheld the protest-related convictions handed down to 11 activists in November, but reduced the prison sentences of all but the most high-profile members of the group.

Rights groups called the decision “indefensible.”


Women from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood—part of a group of 11 activists who were imprisoned on protest-related charges in November—are pushed into a van after the Appeal Court upheld their convictions Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Seven of the defendants were arrested in mid-November for blocking traffic during a protest in front of Phnom Penh City Hall against the municipal government’s failure to address the repeated flooding of their Boeng Kak neighborhood. The other four were arrested the next day for “obstructing public officials” while protesting outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against the arrest of the first seven.

The municipal court convicted all 11 in quick succession and sentenced each of them to a year in prison. Rights groups condemned the trials, which they said were politically motivated and intended to silence anti-government dissent.

On Monday morning, the Court of Appeal upheld the original verdicts against the 11 activists and the one-year prison sentences for the most prominent defendants—anti-eviction activist Tep Vanny and former monk Soeung Hai, who was defrocked over the case.

The other nine had their sentences reduced by between two and six months on the grounds that they were either sick, old or had young children to care for, leaving all 11 with time left to serve. Except for Mr. Hai, the court also reduced the original 2 million riel (about $500) fines for the activists to between 1 million riel (about $250) and 1.5 million riel (about $375).

The court, Presiding Judge Nguon Im said, decided “to uphold the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as valid.”

During their appeal hearing last week, the seven activists arrested in front of City Hall confessed to dragging a bed frame onto Monivong Boulevard to illustrate the fact that their homes were inundated with filthy water because the government had not built them an adequate drainage system.

But Judge Im said Monday that he was unconvinced by their claims that the stunt had not affected traffic.

“It was not right that they stood in the street. They could have stood somewhere else. Standing in the middle of the street causes traffic jams,” he said.

During their own appeal hearing last week, the other four activists all denied obstructing officials in front of the municipal court. Mr. Hai, the defrocked monk, said he was attacked by government security guards while trying to take photos of a scuffle that broke out between them and protesters.

Judge Im said he was unmoved.

“Soeung Hai, the monk, who people believe in and respect, committed a crime and acted contrary to Buddhist principles, so we cannot reduce his sentence,” he said.

A brief fracas ensued inside the courtroom after the judges announced their decision and the activists refused to heed their orders to stay quiet. Security guards bundled them out of the room, some by their hands and feet.

During the announcement, about 300 people protested outside the courthouse demanding that the judges acquit the 11 activists.

After hearing the court’s decision, Uk Vichea, Ms. Vanny’s husband, said the judges were doing the government’s bidding.

“The court is under the influence of the government,” he said. “If it followed the law, it would have released them. The court wants to break my wife’s spirit so she doesn’t protest against the government anymore, but it won’t work because she is strong and brave.”

Ms. Vanny has been at the forefront of protests against the forced evictions at Boeng Kak for the past several years. The government has forced out some 3,000 families from the neighborhood to make way for a high-end real estate project backed by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin.

In a joint statement, 36 human rights groups, associations and communities condemned the Appeal Court’s decision and said the government had never managed to prove its case against the activists.

“The Court of Appeal has once again shown that evidence of a crime is not necessary for a conviction in Cambodia. Mere criticism of the government is all it takes to secure a prison term,” Moeun Tola, a program director for the Community Legal Education Center, said in the statement.

The groups accuse the court of failing to conduct a fair trial, repeatedly interrupting the defense lawyers and refusing to let them screen video footage showing that the women who protested in front of City Hall did not actually block traffic. As for the other four activists, the groups say the government’s own two witnesses could not definitively place them at the scene during the original trial and that neither of these witnesses appeared for cross-examination during the appeal hearing.

“Furthermore, neither the judges nor prosecution established that the defendants had committed violence during the protest, a fundamental component of the article under which they were convicted,” they say in the statement.

The groups ask the courts to drop the charges and release the activists immediately.

Lawyers for the activists said all 11 would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The case has attracted the attention of several foreign delegations to Cambodia, some of which sent representatives to observe the appeal hearings last week. The U.N.’s visiting human rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, also attended. At a press conference on Friday, the day after the hearings, Mr. Subedi said that a lack of judicial independence remained one of the most pressing human rights problems in the country.



B Kak protest convictions upheld on appeal

26 Jan

By:Khouth Sophak Chakrya, The Phnom Penh Post  January 26, 2015


Detained activists from the Boeung Kak lake community are escorted through a media scrum earlier this morning at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh before being read the verdict in their case. Hong Menea

A group of 10 women, including seven well-known Boeung Kak lake activists, and a monk arrested and convicted at breakneck speed in November had their convictions upheld at theAppeal Court this morning.

But most of the group – who were part of two separate cases – had their sentences and fines slightly reduced, according to Presiding Judge Nguon Im’s verdict.

Five of seven Boeung Kak women who allegedly blocked traffic on Monivong Boulevard during a November 10 protest had their sentences, handed out just a day after their arrests, reduced from one year to 10 months.

Kong Chantha, Song Srey Leap, Bo Chhovy, Nong Sreng and Phan Chhunreth were also ordered to pay a fine of 1.5 million riel, about $375, instead of the original 2 million.

Tep Vanny, the most well-known of the seven, did not receive a reduced sentence, but Nget Khun, a 75-year-old known universally as “mummy”, had her sentenced and fine halved to six months and one million riel.

Vanny’s fine was dropped to 1.5 million riel.

Separately, three of the four in the second case – who were arrested on November 11 while protesting outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the release of the Boeung Kak seven – had their sentenced reduced.

They were all convicted on November 12 for “intentionally inciting violence against a public authority”.

Im Srey Touch, Heng Pich and Phoung Sopheap were given 10 months. Their fines were dropped from two million to 1.5 million riel.

But Soeun Hai, a monk from Stung Meanchey pagoda, like Vanny, had his one-year sentence and 2 million riel fine upheld.

Judge Im said this was because he is a Buddhist monk but had “destroyed the religion” with his alleged actions.

Hopes had been high that the Boeung Kak seven would be acquitted, given one of three judges at Friday’s appeal hearing had cast doubt on whether the group had actually obstructed traffic.

The immediate reaction to the verdict outside the court was despondent.

Nou Chivoan, the 16-year-old son of Nong Sreng, was inconsolable. He lay on the footpath next to a portrait of his mother.
“This is injustice for my mother. She has not done anything wrong. She just protested to demand that City Hall intervene to help pump sewage water [out of our houses],” he said between fits of tears.

“But the authorities and the court have instead only arrested and detained my mother.”

Representatives from local rights groups on the scene also condemned the Appeal Court verdict, citing a lack of evidence and alleging the court’s decision was motivated by the government’s spite towards the longtime activists.



UN Rights Envoy Accepts Petition on Jailed Activists

24 Jan

By:Sek Odom, The Cambodia Daily, January 24, 2015

The UN’s outgoing human rights envoy to Cambodia on Friday accepted several petitions calling for the release of 11 activists jailed in November and his intervention in ongoing land disputes.

More than 50 people chanted and held signs aloft outside the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights offices in Phnom Penh until Surya Subedi appeared from the building at about 11 am and received a petition to release seven land activists jailed for “blocking traffic” outside Phnom Penh City Hall in November and four others who were arrested the following day while protesting the seven activists’ detention.

He was also presented with petitions relating to land disputes in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak, Borei Keila and Thma Koul neighborhoods and another from Preah Vihear province.

“I understand your problems and understand that land disputes and evictions are two of the main problems in Cambodia,” Mr. Subedi told the gathered crowd.

“I will push these issues with the government and will seek some intervention in your causes,” he added.

Prominent Boeng Kak land activist Yorm Bopha was hopeful that Mr. Subedi’s support could help the cause.

“We are happy to see that Mr. Subedi came to intervene for us and we believe him. “


Hope for B Kak activists

23 Jan

By:Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Shane Worrell, The Phnom Penh Post  January 23, 2015


A supporter of detained activists from the Boeung Kak lake community holds a placard depicting one of the detained activists yesterday at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

An Appeal Court judge yesterday said that seven female Boeung Kak land activists imprisoned in November for protesting on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh were not actually blocking traffic at the time of their arrest.

Eleven activists – the seven women arrested on November 10 and four others arrested outside the women’s municipal court trial the next day – had their appeal heard in court yesterday, a hearing that lasted roughly four hours.

The judges deferred a decision on the cases until Monday, but not before presiding judge Ngoun Im gave the seven women hope that a ruling could go in their favour.

Barely 24 hours after their arrest in November, the seven women were convicted under Article 78 of the Traffic Law for protesting on the road outside City Hall with a wooden bed. The article relates to “obstruction” of traffic and carries a maximum one year in prison – which the women received.

But in refusing a request from the defence yesterday to show a video in court that would allegedly show the women had not obstructed traffic, Im said it seemed the protesters had not done so anyway.

“It’s not necessary [to show the video],” he said. “We have photos showing the protesters were on the road but not blocking traffic. I want them to be able to exercise their rights.”


Detained activists from the Boeung Kak lake community hold their hands up as they approach members of the media yesterday at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh before their hearing. Hong Menea

The second of three sitting judges, however, had a different take on events.

“The women were standing with their arms locked together in the middle of the road for four to 10 minutes,” Chan Dina said. “It is certainly possible that they caused a traffic jam. The authorities needed to break this up.”

When questioned, one of the accused, Kong Chantha, defended her actions, which she said drew attention to regular flooding that has occurred at Boeung Kak since the lake was filled in.

When Im asked Chantha if she knew whether standing on the road was wrong or right, she replied that not only was it the correct action for her cause, it was something she was entitled to do.

“This is my right,” she said.

After the seven were questioned, attention turned to the four arrested a day after them outside the municipal court as the women were tried and convicted in a matter of hours.

Neth Sarath, the prosecutor, asked monk Soeun Hay, one of the four defendants charged with obstructing public officials, why he had gone to the women’s trial.

“I did not go there intentionally. I went to Canadia Bank and was coming back to my pagoda,” he said. “I was across the road, in that area, and I saw the security guards drag a woman to their truck. I asked the driver of the motorbike I was on to stop to observe the event.

“After that, a group of guards rushed to me. They grabbed me and punched me, injuring my mouth. I was arrested and we were sent to the municipal traffic police.”

Sarath also focused on whether Hay had attended Kampuchea Krom protests outside the Vietnamese Embassy last year – events unrelated to his arrest.

“Yes, I did. Many times,” he said, of the protests in which Vietnamese flags were sometimes burned.

The defence lawyer, Chin Lyda, said witnesses, photos and videos did not show the four breaking the law outside the Municipal Court trial.

“My clients … were standing on the footpath, not the road,” he said. “They did not have weapons. How did my client obstruct the public officers?”

But, he added, photos and videos showed “security guards inflicting violence on my clients”.

Sarath, however, said he could not accept the defendants’ answers and they came to the court that day with the intention of causing trouble.

“Witnesses and the judicial police have confirmed in writing that the defendants absolutely did insult them and obstruct them,” he said.

Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, attended yesterday’s hearing but declined to comment in any detail to reporters.

Outside the court, protesters – a mix of monks and villagers – held signs of individual activists; in some cases, the signs were carried by defendants’ family members.

Not necessarily divided, but on opposite sides of the road, Yorm Bopha’s group and Bov Sophea’s group chanted for their representatives’ release. Police presence was minimal.



Boeung Kak activists’ release sought

22 Jan

By:Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Shane Worrell, The Phnom Penh Post  January 22, 2015


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

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.




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