Latest Flash News & ArticlesFlash News: Supreme Court Considers Boeung Kak Lake Case
Published on November 24, 2017
This morning the Supreme Court considered the conviction of four Boeung Kak Lake activists – Tep Vanny, Kong Chantha, Bov Chhorvy and Heng Mom – on charges of "insult [of a public official]" and "obstruction of a public official with aggravating circumstances".
If the verdict is upheld, they face six-month prison sentences – under Articles 502 and 504 of the Criminal Code – related to a 2011 land rights protests outside Phnom Penh city hall. Tep Vanny has been in detention since 15 August 2016 and is appealing another protest-related conviction.
Lawyers and witnesses for the plaintiff did not appear in court which meant cross-examination was not possible.
The verdict will be announced on 8 December 2017.
Published on November 18, 2017
Two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalists were charged at Phnom Penh Municipal Court this afternoon on suspicion of espionage and sent to pre-trial detention at Correctional Centre 1 (CC1). Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin have been detained by police since Tuesday night, accused of sending news reports to US-based media.
Both men worked for RFA until the media outlet shut its Phnom Penh Bureau on 12 September 2017, citing government repression and the forced closure of its FM radio broadcasts.
Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin were charged under Article 445 of the Criminal Code which covers providing information to foreign states or agents which can “undermine national defence”. The charge carries a prison sentence of between 7 and 15 years.
Published on September 13, 2017
Two activists from the Mother Nature environmental group, arrested while filming sand dredging-related activities in Koh Kong province, have been charged on suspicion of violating privacy and incitement to commit a felony. Dem Kundy and Hun Vannak were arrested in Kiri Sakor district Tuesday – just two days after Mother Nature posted an online video highlighting potential smuggling of silica sand to Taiwan.
The video has been viewed more than 950,000 times on Facebook. The group has repeatedly sought to expose discrepancies in trade figures indicating large scale sand smuggling to several countries including India and Singapore.
If convicted of the two charges, the activists face up to two years in prison and maximum fines of six million riel (US$1,500) under article 495 (incitement to commit a felony) and article 302 of the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a person’s image).
Three other Mother Nature activists were arrested while campaigning against illegal sand dredging in August 2015 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The group’s co-founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, a Spanish national, was arrested and deported in February 2015.
Published on September 9, 2017
Radio is a major source of public information for people living in rural parts of Cambodia where Internet access is less common.
In late August 2017, Cambodian authorities ordered the closure of 32 FM radio frequencies across 20 provinces.
The shutdown particularly hit stations relaying independent Khmer-language news: Radio Free Asia (RFA), Voice of America (VOA) and the Cambodian non-profit, Voice of Democracy (VOD) were all taken off the air.
Published on August 22, 2017
This morning more than 100 farmers from Chi Kor Krom community in Koh Kong protested outside the Ministry of Land Management, demanding that the government resolve a land conflict affecting at least 15 families. Police and para police pushed the protesters from the roadside, hurting two female members of the community and smashing the group’s megaphone.
In 2010, the affected community lost their farmland to an Economic Land Concession (ELC) held by the Heng Huy Agriculture Group which cleared it for sugar production. The community has struggled to find a solution for seven years, repeatedly presenting their case at the local and national level. More than 120 members of the community travelled to Phnom Penh on 2 February 2017 and spent several months petitioning authorities.
Returning five days ago, the community met with a representative of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet who pledged to find a solution. After several hours protesting outside the land ministry today, a spokesman informed the group that their case was still being examined.
Despite repeated government assurances that the land conflict would be resolved, the community is still waiting for action to be taken and plans to remain in the capital to appeal for a solution.
Published on August 15, 2017
Supporters of land activist and human rights defender, Tep Vanny, have marked the one year anniversary of her unjust detention by calling for international help to secure her release.
A group from Boeung Kak Lake community delivered petitions to embassies and international organisations, starting Monday at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and at six embassies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). They continued Tuesday at nine others, including the US, Japan, Germany and the European Union.
Tep Vanny was arrested a year ago and charged during a peaceful protest supporting five jailed human rights defenders who are now released on bail. She was subsequently convicted of “insulting a public official” and sentenced to six days in prison. While she was imprisoned, three long dormant cases related to other peaceful protests were re-opened in politically-motivated trials which fell far short of acceptable legal standards. She is currently serving a 30 month sentence. A further six month sentence is awaiting a final appeal decision and she is on trial on a third re-activated charge.
Representatives from Boeung Kak Lake will hold a candlelight vigil in the community along with NGOs and other civil society groups on Tuesday evening from 5pm to mark the anniversary and to call again on Cambodian authorities to release her.
Their call has been supported in a joint media statement endorsed by 65 national and international civil society organisations as well as in other joint statements and advocacy initiatives from international and regional NGOs.
Published on August 8, 2017
This morning the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence of land rights activist Tep Vanny on a years-old charge which was reactivated following her participation in the peaceful "Black Monday" campaign last year. Today’s verdict follows an appeal hearing on 27 July in which no plaintiffs were present, preventing cross-examination and – as in the first instance trial in February – no credible evidence was presented by the prosecution.
The appeal attempted to overturn her conviction by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 23 February 2017 for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” in a trial which fell far short of acceptable legal standards. The case itself relates to a 2013 protest in Phnom Penh – over the jailing of another activist – where para-police brutally beat and injured Vanny and other protesters.
Today’s verdict upholds Tep Vanny’s two years and six months’ sentence as well as fines and compensation to the plaintiffs amounting to 14 million riel ($3,500). Since her arrest on 15 August 2016, Tep Vanny has spent 358 days in detention.
Published on July 27, 2017
The conviction of land rights activist Tep Vanny over her participation in a peaceful protest was considered by the Court of Appeal today as supporters protested outside almost a year after she was first detained. No plaintiffs or prosecution witnesses were present at the hearing, preventing cross-examination and – as in the first instance trial in February – no credible evidence was presented.
At a 2013 protest in Phnom Penh – over the jailing of another activist – para-police brutally beat and injured Vanny and other protestors. Nonetheless, she was convicted on 23 February 2017 for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” in a trial which fell far short of acceptable legal standards, including a lack of cross-examination of the plaintiffs (security guards known as para-police).
The appeal seeks to overturn a two years and six months’ sentence as well as fines and compensation to the plaintiffs amounting to 14 million riel ($3,500). Since her arrest on 15 August 2016, Tep Vanny has spent 346 days in detention. A verdict will be announced on 8 August 2017.
Published on May 1, 2017
This morning a mixed group of over 1500 trade unionists, workers, farmers, tuk tuk drivers and youths rallied in central Phnom Penh to celebrate International Labour Day and call for respect for workers’ rights, freedom of association, freedom of expression and the living wage.
The peaceful gathering was met with heavy deployments of para-police and riot police carrying batons and tear gas guns. The rally was obstructed by barricades and cordons of mixed forces for over two hours before eventually being permitted to march a short distance towards the National Assembly before again being blocked and prevented from marching the final 200 metres.
Representatives of the gathered groups delivered speeches in which they publicly stated their demands before submitting a petition to a representative of the National Assembly. Earlier in the rally, the authorities attempted to prevent speakers from using microphones. Many participants wore red headbands and emblazoned with the slogan “Our Rights” while others carried banners demanding respect for their rights.
Published on March 27, 2017
Sor Sorn and Nat Sreynak, both from Borei Keila community, were arrested this morning as they prepared for a Black Monday campaign gathering in front of their houses. Both were detained in 7 Makara police station until 7:15PM after nearly 11 hours in detention.
The two women, who were both wearing black t-shirts, were singled out and arrested by police and para-police at Borei Keila community at about 8.45 as they prepared for a gathering to call for the release of incarcerated human rights defenders, including Boeung Kak Lake community representative Tep Vanny who was arrested during another Black Monday event on 15 August 2016. Since the campaign began in May last year, there have been at least 38 arbitrary arrests of Black Monday participants, who have mostly been detained for hours before being released without charge. Today marked Sor Sorn's fifth arrest, and Nat Sreynak's second arrest, for participating in a peaceful Black Monday gathering.
Published on March 12, 2017
Four youths were arrested and detained for three hours today after police and para-police shut down a private screening of an Al Jazeera documentary on the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.
The documentary screening was due to be held in the private office of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association (KSILA), an organisation of youth activists and analysts. There were about 15 people waiting to watch the documentary when about 50 armed police and para-police surrounded the office and arrested the four youths. Moung Sony, Soung Neakpoan, Vorn Channout and Heng Samnang - all members of KSILA - were released at about 6pm, only after signing an agreement promising not to screen the film again without permission from authorities.
Published on February 22, 2017
This morning, political prisoner Kong Raya was released from CC1 after serving his full 18 month prison sentence for “incitement to commit a felony” under Articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s criminal code.
The 26 year old former President of the Cambodian Student Network was initially arrested in August 2015 on the basis of a Facebook post calling for “colour revolution” – a term the government commonly uses to characterise peaceful movements as acts of violent revolt. His arrest came 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 convicted and sentenced on 15 March 2016 after months of pre-trial detention, a verdict subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. His conviction was the first in a spate of crackdowns on online expression.
Published on February 20, 2017
Today, the ruling-party members of the National Assembly approved amendments to the Law on Political Parties in a session boycotted by the opposition.
A draft of the law that became publicly available earlier this month contained articles creating unprecedented powers for the Supreme Court to dissolve political parties and ban political leaders for five years, at the request of the Ministry of Interior, on vague and ill-defined grounds such as potential harm to “national unity”. The process has no hearing and explicitly forbids appeal.
The law would allow the Ministry of Interior to suspend political parties for a time period with no maximum duration. The law would also ban individuals with any conviction, spent or unspent, carrying a non-suspended custodial sentence from holding official roles within political parties.
The law, which still requires approval by the Senate, is designated “urgent” meaning it will be immediately implemented once it has been signed by the King.
Published on February 17, 2017
Political analyst Kim Sok was charged with incitement and defamation and brought to CC1 prison this afternoon in relation to a five-day-old complaint brought against him by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
He was charged and sent to pre-trial detention by Phnom Penh investigating judge Rouss Phiset following hours of questioning by prosecutor Seang Sok. The case is the first of two lawsuits the Prime Minister brought against Kim Sok in relation to comments made by the political analyst about the murder of Kem Ley, who was killed last July. The second lawsuit - also alleging defamation and incitement - was lodged after Kim Sok took to the radio to explain his earlier comments. A conviction for incitement carries a jail sentence of six months to two years. The Prime Minister has also asked for compensation in both complaints, totalling USD$502,500.
A crowd of about 250 people gathered outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court in support of Kim Sok this morning.
Published on February 15, 2017
Boeung Kak Lake representatives Tep Vanny, Bo Chhorvy, Kong Chantha and Heng Mom faced a hearing this morning to appeal convictions handed down to them last September by Phnom Penh Municipal Court in relation to a 2011 protest. Appeal Court judge Nhoung Thol will announce the verdict on 27 February. Neither plaintiff was present at the hearing, preventing cross-examination, and evidence presented was limited.
In their first trial, all four women were found guilty of obstruction of a public official with aggravating circumstances and insult and sentenced to six months' imprisonment. Since then, Tep Vanny has remained in pre-trial detention in CC2 prison – where she has now been for half a year – for separate charges relating to a protest held by Boeung Kak Lake community in 2013 in front of the Prime Minister's house. Bo Chhorvy, Kong Chantha and Heng Mom were not arrested as the sentences will not be enforced until all appeals are exhausted. None of the evidence presented at the original trial or the appeal hearing sufficiently proved the guilt of the four women.
About 40 community members and supporters from land communities and civil society groups gathered outside the court during today's hearing.