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Activists Petition Asean, UN Over Jailed Rights Campaigner


Boeung Kak lake community's land activists shout slogans with a poster of detained Tep Vanny during a rally in front of an appeals court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. The court upheld a 2 ½ year prison term against Tep Vanny, a prominent land rights activist on charges of committing violence at a protest she helped lead outside of Prime Minister Hun Sen's residence more than three years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The Boeung Kak activists also submitted a petition to Rhona Smith, the U.N.’s rights envoy to Cambodia, who is in the country on a fact-finding mission.

Activists and residents from the Boeung Kak Lake area of Phnom Penh this week petitioned the embassies of Asean member states and the office of the U.N. High commissioner calling for the release of jailed land rights activist Tep Vanny.

Cambodia’s Court of Appeals last week upheld a decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which sentenced Vanny to 30 months in jail for her involvement in a protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in 2013.

On Monday last week, the Boeung Kak activists submitted a petition to Rhona Smith, the U.N.’s rights envoy to Cambodia, who is in the country on a fact-finding mission.

Bov Sophear, one of the activists, said the petitions were filed to mark the one-year anniversary of Vanny’s incarceration.

“In the courtroom, we saw that there was no evidence or witnesses, while the police report was also wrong. But the judge and prosecutor said Tep Vanny couldn’t be released,” she said.

She added that a protest campaign often led by Vanny, known as the Black Monday Campaign, which was suspended ahead of elections in June, would restart if Vanny was not released.

Song Sreyleap, another of Vanny’s supporters, said Smith had yet to respond to the activists’ petition.

“Tep Vanny was detained because she took part in freedom of expression activities, particular freedom of assembly,” she said.

Six embassies accepted the petitions on Monday, including the embassies of Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

The embassies of Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, however, rejected the petitions.

A Laos embassy official told VOA Khmer that the Boeung Kak Lake dispute was an “internal problem” of Cambodia and subject to Asean states’ non-interference policy.

Wan-Hea Lee, country director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in an email that the concerns expressed by the activists were “regularly taken up with the relevant authorities.”

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