Latest Flash News & ArticlesFlash News: MP Beatings Trial Begins
Published on April 28, 2016
This morning, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court began the trial of three members of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit charged with the brutal beating of two CNRP MPs, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sophea, outside the gates of the National Assembly during an anti-Kem Sokha protest on October 26 last year.
The three soldiers, Mao Hoeung, Sot Vanny and Chhay Sarith are charged with intentional violence with aggravating circumstances and intentional property damage with aggravating circumstances under Criminal Code Articles 218 and 411, respectively. Despite clear evidence of additional perpetrators, the authorities closed the official investigation after the three men came turned themselves in to the police.
Chhay Sarith admitted responsibility for the violence against one of the MPs, citing verbal provocation and - contrary to previous denials - confirmed the identity of the defendants as members of the elite bodyguard unit. However, lawyers for the MPs were prevented from questioning the role of the unit in the violence and wider anti-CNRP protest by the trial judge after complaints from the prosecutor and defence lawyers.
The judge has now suspended proceedings until 10 May 2016 and will resume to hear testimony from all defendants on the attacks against both opposition MPs.
Published on April 4, 2016
This morning, at least two trade unionists were injured as a peaceful gathering near Cambodia's National Assembly to protest the draft Trade Union Law (TUL) was violently broken up by authorities.
About 50 unionists from various unions and associations were prevented from gathering outside the National Assembly by roadblocks and over 100 mixed police forces. As they peacefully assembled in front of the roadblock, the group was suddenly and violently dispersed by about 30 para-police. Sut Chet, from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), was chased and beaten around the head by a group of para-police. Chea Udom, also from CUMW, was also beaten as he tried to help him. Police standing nearby did nothing to stop the violence.
The draft law will be voted on by the National Assembly later today. It has been subject to ongoing national and international criticism, including a UN legal analysis which concluded that the TUL violated national and international law.
Published on March 25, 2016
Today, about 300 people from four communes in Sre Ambel and Botom Sakor districts, Koh Kong, marched to submit petitions to their district governors protesting land grabbing by sugar producers.
The communities delivered the petitions to the district governors demanding their support in an ongoing land conflict with Thai company KSL, majority owner of Koh Kong Plantation Co and Koh Kong Sugar Co. The conflict with KSL relates to the land grabbing of over 900 hectares of land and the loss of livelihoods for local families after the company, at the time co-owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, were granted adjacent land concessions for the two subsidiary companies totaling almost 20,000 hectares.
The communities have been actively protesting the land grabs by the sugar company since the dispute began in 2006.
Published on March 17, 2016
This morning, the Appeal Court began hearings against the convictions of 11 CNRP supporters and officials arrested in late 2014 for their involvement in a July 2014 pro-CNRP protest which turned violent.
The 11 were convicted of charges relating to insurrection and violence in July 2015 following a farcical trial and sentenced to between seven and 20 years’ imprisonment. Today’s hearing covered mostly procedural grounds, with the Appeal Court set to return to the case at a later date. Judges also denied a request from one of the 11, Meach Sovannara, to access medical treatment outside the country.
Published on March 15, 2016
This afternoon, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced university student Kong Raya, 25, to 18 months’ imprisonment for calling for a “colour revolution” on his Facebook page. His conviction represents the latest development in a growing trend for authorities to take action against online expression.
Kong Raya, the president of Cambodia Student Network, was arrested for his Facebook comments on August 20 – less than a month after Prime Minister Hun Sen called on police and armed forces to take action over any group or individual attempting a “colour revolution”. He was charged with criminal incitement under Articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s criminal code and sent to CC1 prison. With today’s sentence he is set to remain incarcerated for almost another year.
Published on March 11, 2016
This morning, two female land activists were charged under the land law and sent to pre-trial detention by Kampong Speu provincial court.
You Ron, 51, and Ith Rom, 56, were detained in Kampong Speu provincial prison after being charged alongside another female activist, Ith Mom, 47. All three face up to two years’ imprisonment. The charges relate to a land dispute which started in 2011 in Phnom Chhrouch district, Kampong Speu province, when soldiers from the military “ACO” armored vehicle unit encroached on the land of around 100 families. Many of the affected families had farmed the land since 1979. In 2011, one of the detained activists – You Ron – was beaten unconscious by soldiers as she attempted to stop them clearing the land.
In 2013, volunteer students sent to the area in the context of the government’s 2012 land titling scheme (Directive 01) failed to give land titles to the affected families. They instead issued titles to 83 families, some connected to military soldiers, who had not lived in that area previously. The land was later sold to companies. In 2015, representative of the 83 families filed a complaint against six community representatives, including the three women charged today.
Published on March 8, 2016
This morning, police and para-police in Phnom Penh were mobilized to prevent a bicycle rally celebrating International Women’s Day, a national holiday in Cambodia.
Around 200 people including unions, garment factory workers, associations, NGOs and citizens' groups had gathered in front of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to participate in a 9 km bicycle ride across Phnom Penh to the National Assembly. The rally was intended to celebrate economic, social and political achievements of women in the country but also call for further action by the government to eliminate disparity in the recognition and enforcement of women’s rights throughout the country.
However, as participants began to cycle away from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, attempting to form a single file line, they were met nearly immediately by approximately 60 mixed security forces who blocked the road in both directions, creating a large traffic jam. The authorities’ purported reason for blocking the rally was to prevent traffic disruptions. Participants were surrounded by police and forced to remain outside the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for over three hours before they were finally allowed to leave.
Published on March 3, 2016
Forestry activist Vein Vorn – who had been an elected commune councilor prior to his arrest - was released from prison this afternoon after Koh Kong court sentenced him to one year's imprisonment, seven months of which will be suspended. He was convicted this morning of violating Article 98 of the Forestry Law.
Vein Vorn was at the forefront of a campaign to stop the controversial development of a hydroelectric dam by Chinese group Sinohydro in partnership with ruling party senator Lao Meng Kin of the Pheapimex group. He was arrested and charged on October 7, 2015 after supporting the construction of a small communal meeting space built by the Areng Valley community.
Three activists from environmental NGO Mother Nature, who were also active in protesting the hydrodam, have been in detention since August 17 for their role in an ongoing campaign to end alleged illegal sand dredging in Koh Kong.
Published on February 23, 2016
This morning, over 200 union activists gathered outside CC1 prison in Phnom Penh to call for the release of two men: bus driver and Cambodian Transport Workers Federation (CTWF) member Nan Vanna, and Cambodia Informal Worker Association (CIWA) official Ruos Siphay. Both have been detained since February 6 and charged with aggravated intentional violence, obstructing public officials and obstructing a public road.
Union leader Ath Thorn was among today’s supporters. Along with three other union leaders – Kong Athit (President of C.CAWDU and CLC), Eang Kim Hong (C.CAWDU) and Sok Chun Oeung (CIWA) – he has also been charged with the same offences, although not yet detained.
Vanna and Ruos Siphay were arrested by anti-demonstration police on February 6 during a violent attack on former Capitol Tours bus drivers as they demonstrated alongside supporting union CIWA. Both imprisoned men sustained injuries during the protest.
Published on February 8, 2016
Former Capitol Tours bus driver Nan Vanna and Cambodia Informal Worker Association (CIWA) official Ruos Siphay were sent to CC1 prison this afternoon after being charged with aggravated intentional violence, obstructing public officials and obstructing a public road. Union leaders Ath Thorn, Kong Athit, Sok Chun Oeung and Eang Kim Hong have also been charged with the same offences, although not yet detained.
Nan Vanna and Ruos Siphay were arrested on Saturday during a violent attack on former Capitol Tours bus drivers as they demonstrated with supporting union CIWA. Both men sustained injuries during their arrest by anti-demonstration police, who mostly stood by while members of Cambodia for Confederation Development Association (CCDA) inflicted a savage beating on the drivers and their supporters using hammers and sticks. No CCDA members who openly committed violence were arrested. None of the four union leaders charged were present during the violence.
About 70 supporters gathered outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court from this morning to call for the release of the two men. All six men – as well as unspecified ‘unidentified individuals’ – face between two and six years in prison after being charged under Articles 218 and 503 of the Criminal Code and Article 80 of the Traffic Law this afternoon.
Published on February 4, 2016
This morning, the Court of Appeal upheld the convictions of 13 workers charged with aggravated intentional violence, aggravated intentional destruction of property, obstruction and insult. The charges relate to deadly clashes between striking workers and mixed police and military forces – who shot and killed at least four people, leaving scores more injured – on Veng Sreng Road in January 2014.
The appeal hearing, held on January 27, 2016, was conducted in the absence of the defendants and their lawyers, who had been denied a request to delay the hearing in order to inform defendants. Plaintiffs – comprised of mixed police and military police forces – claimed that state forces had used only wooden batons and tear gas during the lethal clampdown, in defiance of witnesses and footage showing their use of live ammunition.
The appeal hearing of 10 further workers and human rights defenders arrested during clashes on January 2, 2014 has been delayed indefinitely. The original trial of all 23, in May 2014, was characterized by a total absence of fair trial rights and a clear lack of judicial impartiality. No one has yet been held accountable to the four deaths, dozens of hospitalisations and one disappearance during the two days of state violence, which ended a period of mass protest by garment workers and pro-opposition party supporters.
Published on January 20, 2016
Today over 300 protesters from four communes, Kandoul, Chi Khor Leu, Chi Khor Krom and Dang Peng delivered petitions to their respective commune offices to protest land grabbing by sugar producers in Sre Ambel district. The protest is the latest in a series of actions by the communities since the dispute began in 2006.
The communities delivered the petition to their commune chiefs demanding their support for the return of land and compensation for 753 families after a decade-long dispute with the Thai sugar company KSL. The conflict with the sugar company concerns the land grabbing of over 900 hectares of land and the loss of livelihoods for local families after the companies, at the time co-owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, were granted adjacent land concessions totaling almost 20,000 hectares.
After delivering the petition to all four commune offices the protesters returned to their homes after setting a two week deadline for the authorities to provide a resolution.
Published on January 11, 2016
Today, communities gathered in three provinces across Cambodia to protest forced evictions and call for an end to their land conflicts.
In Kampong Speu, communities from Oral district gathered outside HLH Agriculture Co. on the first of a planned multi-day protest against land grabs perpetrated by the company since 2009. The group, of about 100 community members, plans to continue their demonstration for three more days.
In a separate land protest, about 40 people from Ochheuteal beach community, Spean Chhes community and Kampenh Chas community in Sihanoukville gathered outside the provincial government office to demand a resolution to their land conflicts.
And in Banteay Meanchey, land activists from Poipet’s railway community continued a series of protests against a railway project which has affected almost 1,000 families in Poipet and Phasar Kandal commune. One of the activists, Chheng Bunhak, was arrested and charged with incitement following a similar such protest on 14 December.
Published on January 3, 2016
This morning, around 300 unionists, garment factory workers, monks, NGO staff and land rights activists gathered for a memorial ceremony on Veng Sreng Road in Phnom Penh where two years ago state security forces shot at striking workers, killing four and injuring many more.
Today’s commemoration went ahead despite heavy-handed policing throughout: around 500 police and security guards attempted to disrupt the gathering by shoving participants, confiscating banners and breaking up groups of people as they congregated. Among the participants were family members of the deceased, and workers and union leaders who were arrested and wrongfully imprisoned following the violence two years ago.
Published on December 2, 2015
This afternoon, three community representatives were sentenced to two years in prison by Ratanakiri court as over 100 supporters gathered outside the courtroom to protest the proceedings.
The community representatives were first summonsed in May 2015 as an intimidation tactic in the midst of a land conflict which started in 2012, when workers hired by Phnom Penh businessman Heang Socheat – and with the support of armed police – began clearing hundreds of hectares of land which had supported the livelihoods of 100 families living in Borkeo district.
Sout Soeun, Em Chan, and Chreuk Touck were convicted of charges relating to infringement of ownership under Articles 247, 248 and 253 of the Land Law. Only Article 253 carries a prison sentence, and is defined as ‘violence against a possessor of immovable property’. Despite a complete lack of any evidence of violence, all three received maximum prison sentences and were immediately sent to Ratanakiri prison following their sentencing. After the verdict was announced, supporters were pushed away from the entrance of the courthouse by armed military police.