Latest Flash News & Articles

Flash News: Government Censors Local Media in Lead-Up to Cambodian Elections
Published on June 28, 2013

The government has imposed shocking and expansive measures to censor Cambodia’s local news media ahead of July 28 elections, banning FM radio stations from rebroadcasting “foreignbased programs” in Khmer and from reporting on foreigners who are campaigning “to support or oppose” political parties or candidates.

The ban will stay in place through the July 28 National Assembly election day.

Flash News: Land Activist Bopha Files Appeal at Supreme Court
Published on June 18, 2013

Imprisoned Boeung Kak Lake land activist Yorm Bopha filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on June 17, 2013, in a bid to overturn or reduce her two-year prison sentence. She was convicted for her alleged involvement in a physical assault, but it is widely believed that the charges came in retaliation for her land rights activism.

Bopha was arrested in September 2012 and convicted of “intentional violence” in December; she was originally sentenced to three years imprisonment. The Court of Appeal suspended one year of her sentence on Friday, June 14, meaning she is scheduled for release in September 2014. Both Bopha’s original trial and her appeal were characterized by a stunning lack of evidence

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Flash News: Bopha appeal hearing begins; to be continued on June 14
Published on June 5, 2013

The appeal hearing of imprisoned Boeung Kak community member Yorm Bopha began today at approximately 2:45 p.m. in Phnom Penh, with hundreds of supporters gathering outside the court’s gates. An additional 30 to 40 members of a pro-government motodop association organized a counter-protest calling for Bopha to remain in prison. The counterprotest itself was not that vocal, but the group used piped-in crowd noise, channeled through a megaphone, in an attempt to drown out the chants of Bopha’s supporters. At least one of the motodop group told a human rights monitor he was paid 30,000 riels to protest.

Inside the court, approximately 40 people from local and international NGOs, foreign embassies, the United Nations, and media observed the hearing. Bopha and her husband both testified.

After three hours, the hearing was adjourned, to be continued on June 14 at 2 p.m.

Bopha was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly assaulting a motodop. There is no evidence of her involvement in the case, and all signs point to her conviction being in retribution for her activism for the Boeung Kak lake land case. She has been designated a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International.

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Flash News: Trial of Former Bavet Governor Chhouk Bandith Delayed
Published on May 21, 2013

Earlier today, former Bavet Governor Chhouk Bandith - accused of shooting three female factory workers during a factory strike last year - failed to appear to his trial in Svay Rieng province. Following a request by his lawyer, the Svay Rieng court agreed to delay the trial to June 12 in order to "respect the rights of the accused" and insure his presence at the trial. About 60 representatives from unions, NGOs and the united nations were present during today's proceedings.

Bandith has admitted to firing his gun, and a police witness saw him pointing the gun at the crowd. Despite this, Bandith remains a free man.

The new court date is June 12 at 8 a.m., also in Svay Rieng.

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Flash News: Mam Sonando's Appeal Concludes with Request for Change in Charges
Published on March 6, 2013

After a full day of testimony and arguments, the Prosecutor began his closing statement today by requesting that secession-related charges against Mam Sonando be changed. According to the Prosecutor, Sonando should be convicted of instigating the crimes of obstruction and interference with local officials, under articles 28, 504 and 609 of the Penal Code. The Prosecutor also asked to add a forestry crime -- the unlawful clearing of forest land -- under article 97.6 of the Forestry Law. The charges against the other two appellants, Touch Ream and Kann Sovann, remained the same. One witness's testimony was, however, abruptly halted when he repeatedly stated that he had mistakenly identified Sovann as being present at an incident that was the basis for the accusations against him. The witness stated that none of the three appellants had been at the incident in question.

The Appeals Court will announce its decision on March 14, 2013 at 8 am.

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Flash News: Another high profile case reaches Appeals Court; Mam Sonando’s hearing to continue tomorrow
Published on March 5, 2013

On the morning of March 5, 2013, the Appeals Court opened a hearing to review the verdict against independent radio owner Mam Sonando and two co-defendants, Touch Ream and Kan Sovann. The court was standing room only for the proceeding, with around 55 people, including numerous international observers, in attendance. The hearing follows the September 2012 trial in Phnom Penh’s lower court which resulted in a widely condemned 20-year-long prison sentence for 72-year-old Sonando. No evidence of Sonando’s involvement in an alleged “secession” in Kratie province was presented during the trial, nor was there any evidence that a secession movement even existed.

The hearing is expected to end tomorrow.

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Flash News: Appeals Court Cements Lesser Charge Against Bandith, Orders Trial
Published on March 4, 2013

This afternoon, the Appeals Court's Investigation Chamber charged ex-Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith with causing involuntary bodily harm under article 236 of the Penal Code, and sent the case file back to the Svay Rieng court for trial. The Appeals Court apparently did not consider a more serious accusation than the one originally submitted against Bandith to loud public outcry. This decision follows a two-day long closed hearing in which Bandith admitted to shooting his weapon during the worker's protest that resulted in serious gun shot injuries to three women, but denied knowing where the bullets went. A key witness who testified during the hearing, a commune police deputy chief, said that he believed Bandith was the shooter, as he saw Bandith pointing his handgun at workers seconds after the shooting. No evidence has been reported related to potential alternate shooters.

The Appeals Court did not order pre-trial detention for Bandith. The charge carries a prison sentence of six months to two years.

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Flash News: Appeals Court Concludes Hearing for Former Bavet Governor; Verdict due March 4
Published on March 1, 2013

The appeal hearing for former Bavet city governor Chhouk Bandith, which began on Feb. 27, concluded yesterday after a full day of testimony from witnesses. The hearing was called to determine whether to reopen criminal charges against Bandith for allegedly shooting three protesting garment workers in February 2012. Charges against Bandith were dropped in December.

During the hearing, Bandith reportedly acknowledged firing his gun, while police witnesses reportedly testified that Bandith brandished a gun at the protest and fired shots. One key witness -- a commune deputy police chief -- said that he believed Bandith was the shooter.

The court will announce its decision on March 4.

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Flash News: Appeals Court Hears Case for Reinstating Charges against Former Bavet Governor
Published on February 27, 2013

Former Bavet city governor Chhouk Bandith appeared at the Court of Appeals in Phnom Penh today for a hearing examining an investigating judge’s decision in December to drop criminal charges against him.

The former governor was accused of firing his gun during a demonstration by garment workers in February 2012. Three workers -- whose factory supplies Puma, among others -- were injured by gunfire. Bandith actually admitted firing his gun, and was originally charged in the case, but the charges were inexplicably dropped in December.

The hearing was closed to the public, but outside the court, a group of union members, workers and other supporters gathered to call on the court to reinstate the charges.

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Article: 2012 in Review: Crackdown on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly
Published on February 15, 2013

The most shocking attack on freedom of expression in 2012 came in September, when muckraking journalist Hang Serei Oudom was murdered. His battered body, hacked at least six times with an axe, was found in the trunk of his car. Oudom’s work had focused on exposing illegal logging and forest crimes involving the local elite.

Meanwhile, as Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship unfolded and the 2012 commune election approached, the government demonstrated increased intolerance for peaceful assembly and expression.

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Article: 2012 in Review: The Judiciary, a Useful Weapon to Silence Critics
Published on February 14, 2013

Authorities continue to resort to the judicial system to silence those who assert their rights or question entrenched interests. Throughout 2012, court summonses and the threat of arrest were increasingly used to intimidate human rights defenders.

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Article: 2012 in Review: Use of Force Against Peaceful Protests
Published on February 13, 2013

As the frequency of land grabs has grown, so has the sense of desperation for Cambodians faced with eviction. The perpetrators of land grabs – from business leaders to police to hired hands who carry out actual evictions – operate with near complete impunity. Recourse to the notoriously corrupt judiciary is not an option. For the average Cambodian, the only avenue that offers the prospect of success is civil disobedience, namely public protest and individual action.

The government has become increasingly aggressive in attempting to shut down this avenue as well, despite the fact the vast majority of citizen protests documented by LICADHO during 2012 have been peaceful. Violence is often the government’s tactic of choice.

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Article: 2012 in Review: Land Grabbing, the Roots of Strife
Published on February 12, 2013

The human rights situation in Cambodia began 2012 teetering on the edge of a precipice, and by the end of the year had fallen off the cliff.

The sheer volume of shocking turns makes it difficult to choose where to begin a summary of 2012: Independent radio station owner Mam Sonando was sentenced to 20 years in prison on politically-motivated charges. The country’s most prominent environmental activist was shot dead in the forest while investigating illegal logging. A journalist working on logging issues was murdered in Ratanakiri province. A town governor opened fire on protesting garment workers and has yet to spend a day in prison. And 17 leaders from Phnom Penh communities facing eviction spent time in prison.

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Flash News: Cambodian Appeals Court Denies Bail for Jailed Radio Owner Mam Sonando
Published on December 13, 2012

Earlier this morning, the Appeals Court denied independent radio station owner Mam Sonando's request for release pending his appeal. Sonando, 71, was convicted earlier this year on multiple counts related to purportedly inciting an insurrectionist movement. The charges were widely decried as baseless and politically motivated. Although no credible evidence was presented in the trial court, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Since then, a growing number of voices - including the European Parliament and Unites States President Barack Obama - have openly called for his release.

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Flash News: LICADHO staff released from prison after serving two years on groundless charges
Published on May 30, 2012

LICADHO employee Leang Sokchoeun was released from Kandal Provincial Prison yesterday at 11 a.m., after fully serving his two-year sentence on dubious charges.

Leading human rights organizations from around the world - including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture -- condemned Sokchoeun's conviction as fundamentally flawed and a flagrant violation of domestic and international law.

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Prison Population Watch
13,504 Occupancy Rate: ↗161%

Click here for the latest report on prison overcrowding
Monthly population figures as of November 30, 2014, from the 18 prisons monitored by LICADHO

The Great Cambodian Giveaway

Visualizing Land Concessions over Time