Boeung Kak land activist Tep Vanny was brought before an investigating judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday morning for questioning on a charge of intentional violence with aggravating circumstances that dates to 2013.
Court spokesman Ly Sophana said Vanny was accused of having led a group of Boeung Kak land activists who clashed with police on March 13 that year as they attempted to “storm” Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence to deliver a petition seeking his intervention in their long-running land dispute.
However, leaving the courtroom, Vanny was incredulous, questioning why it had taken three years for the prosecutor to charge her.
“If I committed violence in front of Samdech’s [Hun Sen] house in 2013, maybe I would have lost my life since then. Certainly I would have gone to jail already,” Vanny said.
She was arrested on August 15 along with several others for cursing effigies during a Black Monday protest. While her alleged accomplice, Bov Sophea, was released one week later, Vanny remains at Prey Sar prison on the 2013 charge.
“I’m not shocked that they are trying to colour me again and again. It’s just a strategy to deprive our freedom of expression in demanding justice for the Boeung Kak community,” she said.
Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator at rights group Licadho, agreed with Vanny’s analysis.
“We saw them that day; they prayed with scarecrows and they are innocent. But she is an active community representative so they dredged up an old case to interrogate her and intimidate the community,” Sam Ath said.