Latest Flash News & Articles

Flash News: Supreme Court Upholds Tep Vanny Conviction
Published on February 7, 2018audio available

The conviction of land rights activist Tep Vanny over her participation in a peaceful protest was upheld by the Supreme Court this morning as supporters gathered outside.

No plaintiffs or prosecution witnesses were present at the hearing, preventing cross-examination as was the case at the first instance trial and Appeal Court hearings. Witnesses for the defence, who were present in the courtroom, were not permitted to testify.

At a protest in Phnom Penh on 13 March 2013 – over the jailing of another activist – para-police beat and injured several members of the Boeung Kak Lake community. Nonetheless, Tep Vanny was convicted by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 23 February 2017 for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances”, despite a lack of credible evidence.

Vanny’s defence sought to overturn the two years and six months’ sentence as well as fines and compensation to two para-police plaintiffs amounting to 14 million riel ($3,500). Since her arrest on 15 August 2016 (her pre-trial detention officially began four days later), Tep Vanny has spent 541 days behind bars.

The verdict today relates just one of three historic cases which were re-activated in August 2016 while Vanny was awaiting trial on separate charges over a Black Monday protest for the release of five human rights defenders.

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Flash News: Mother Nature Activists Convicted by Koh Kong court
Published on January 26, 2018audio available

Koh Kong provincial court convicted two Mother Nature activists today on the charge of violating privacy and incitement and sentenced both to one year in prison with seven months suspended. They were also fined 1,000,000 riels each (US$250).

Dem Kundy and Hun Vannak were convicted under article 302 (unauthorised recording of a person’s image) and article 495 (incitement to commit a felony) of the Criminal Code.

The sentences, announced by Judge Keo Sokha, came just a day after their trial where the defence argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict them of incitement or invading the privacy of the LYP Group which brought the complaint.

Shortly before their arrest on 12 September 2017, the environmental activists had filmed cargo ships suspected of transporting illegally dredged sand. They recorded the footage from a boat in open waters. For a recording to be a violation of privacy under Cambodian law it must include a person’s image, taken without permission while on private property.

Kundy and Vannak are recognised by Amnesty International as Prisoners of Conscience. As they have been held in pre-trial detention since their arrest, the pair are expected to be released within weeks.

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Flash News: Mother Nature Activists Await Court Verdict
Published on January 25, 2018

Koh Kong provincial court considered the case of two activists from the Mother Nature environmental group this morning who were arrested in September while filming suspected illegal sand dredging activity.

Dem Kundy and Hun Vannak were arrested in Kiri Sakor district on 12 September 2017 and charged on suspicion of violating privacy and incitement to commit a felony. They have been held since then in pre-trial detention. Their arrest came just two days after the group posted an online video​ highlighting potential smuggling of silica sand to Taiwan.

If convicted of the two charges, the activists face up to two years in prison and fines of up to 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.

Kundy and Vannak are recognized by Amnesty International as Prisoners of Conscience.

The court will announce the verdict tomorrow, 26 January 2018.

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Flash News: Civil society groups call for justice for slain trade union leader
Published on January 22, 2018audio available

Trade union and civil society activists gathered in central Phnom Penh this morning to mark the fourteenth anniversary of the murder of former trade union leader Chea Vichea.

A ceremony was held to pay tribute to the former President of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) who was gunned-down in broad daylight on 22 January 2004. Two innocent men – Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeurn – were falsely convicted for the crime and spent five years in jail before their sentences were overturned.

Participants at the commemoration called on authorities to find the real perpetrators and provide justice for Vichea and his family and friends. Vichea’s brother Chea Mony, also a former FTUWKC leader, was absent. He was due in court this morning for questioning following a complaint brought by government-aligned trade unions.

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Flash News: Equitable Cambodia Defamation Convictions Quashed
Published on January 12, 2018audio available

The Appeal Court overturned defamation convictions and dropped all charges against three Equitable Cambodia (EC) staff this morning related to internal disciplinary proceedings involving Chan Vichet, a former EC employee. In delivering the verdict Judge Nhung Thol stated that there was no evidence of defamation.

Chheang Phea, Eang Vuthy and Phen Kimsong were convicted by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 22 August 2016 and ordered to pay fines and damages over a written staff warning issued to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff claimed that he was unfairly dismissed from the EC in 2015 and that private information regarding the dismissal was revealed by management. However, the warning was issued privately after a due process.

As in the first instance trial, the prosecutor said at the appeal hearing that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the charges. Cambodia’s Criminal Code (Article 305) defines defamation as an “allegation or charge” made in bad faith which is stated or circulated publicly, harming a person’s reputation.

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Flash News: Borei Keila Commemorate Sixth Anniversary of Forced Eviction
Published on January 3, 2018audio available

Borei Keila community in Phnom Penh marked the sixth anniversary today of the violent forced eviction by authorities on 3 January 2012 to make way for a high rise housing development. The community is still seeking fair compensation and re-location near the site of their former homes.

A religious ceremony was held as well as speeches highlighting the plight of the community which has faced violence, intimidation and unjust imprisonments since the first forced evictions in 2009.

The building firm Phanimex obtained a land sharing agreement with the community and the government in 2003 to develop the site and pledged to build ten apartment buildings to re-locate more than 1,700 families. Only eight of the ten buildings were completed.

Hundreds of families were forced to move to re-location sites far outside the city which lacked proper sanitation, services and access to schools and employment. Some returned and continue to live in dilapidated conditions while petitioning authorities for a just settlement.

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Flash News: Equitable Cambodia Defamation Convictions Reviewed
Published on December 22, 2017audio available

This morning the Appeal Court considered the conviction of three Equitable Cambodia (EC) managers – Chheang Phea, Eang Vuthy and Phen Kimsong – on criminal defamation charges brought by Chan Vichet, a former employee, related to an internal written staff warning.

Neither Vichet nor his lawyers were present at the court which meant cross-examination was not possible. The Appeal Court prosecutor echoed the unusual remark made by the Municipal Court prosecutor in 2016 that there was no evidence of any intentional wrongdoing by the EC managers.

Vichet claimed that he was unfairly dismissed from the land rights NGO in 2015 and that private information regarding the dismissal was revealed by management.

The warning was issued privately after a staff evaluation. Cambodia’s Criminal Code (Article 305) defines defamation as an “allegation or charge” made in bad faith which is stated or circulated publicly, harming a person’s reputation. Nonetheless, the three were convicted by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 22 August 2016 and ordered to pay fines and damages.

The Appeal Court verdict will be announced at 8am on 12 January 2018.

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Flash News: Communities Celebrate International Human Rights Day
Published on December 10, 2017audio available

More than 3,000 Cambodians have been gathering around the country in over a dozen, mainly rural, locations to celebrate the 69th International Human Rights Day - despite ongoing government restrictions on civil society.

Communities and civil society organisations spoke out about land grabbing, natural resource protection and minority rights in a series of events since Friday.

Despite the current climate of fear, communities, grassroots groups and trade unions demonstrated solidarity in private and public events. Several faced restrictions from local and provincial authorities, including not being allowed to march.

International Human Rights Day is celebrated every year to mark the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948.

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Flash News: Supreme Court Upholds Convictions of Boeung Kak Lake Activists
Published on December 8, 2017audio available

This morning the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of three Boeung Kak Lake activists – Tep Vanny, Kong Chantha and Bou Chhorvy – on charges of “insult [of a public official]” and “obstruction of a public official with aggravating circumstances”. Their six month sentences were also upheld.

No enforcement order was issued. This means their arrest and enforcement of the sentences can be ordered at any time at the discretion of the Phnom Penh municipal prosecutor.

Tep Vanny was immediately returned to Correctional Centre 2 (CC2) where she has been in detention since 15 August 2016. She is awaiting an appeal against a conviction and 30 month sentence in another protest-related case. Kong Chantha and Bou Chhorvy were not immediately detained.

The convictions – under Articles 502 and 504 of the Criminal Code – related to a 2011 land protest outside Phnom Penh city hall. Lawyers and witnesses for the plaintiff did not appear in court at the hearing on 24 November 2017. As in earlier court hearings on this case insufficient evidence was presented to meet the legal standards for proof.

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Flash News: Supreme Court Considers Boeung Kak Lake Case
Published on November 24, 2017audio available

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.

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Flash News: Former RFA Journalists Charged With Espionage
Published on November 18, 2017audio available

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.

Flash News: Mother Nature Activists Arrested Filming Suspected Sand Smuggling
Published on September 13, 2017audio available

Two activists from the Mother Nature environmental group, arrested while filming suspected sand smuggling 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.

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Article: Restricting Critical Voices on Cambodian Airwaves
Published on September 9, 2017audio available

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.

Read the full article...

Flash News: Koh Kong Farmers Protest Sugar Concession Land Grabbing
Published on August 22, 2017audio available

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.

Flash News: Supporters Petition for Tep Vanny's Release After One Year in Prison
Published on August 15, 2017audio available

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.

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