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Housing Activists Stage Demonstration for Women’s Day

Villagers from Boeung Kak lake march through the main street, wearing a portrait of detained Yoam Bopha, Buddhism, poster and flags to mark the World Women's Day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, March. 8, 2013. Bopha was arrested by local authorities after her protest over compensation for her loss of her house due to a new luxury housing development. The protesters demanded the release of Bopha. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
PHNOM PENH - More than 300 protesters from the Boeung Kak and Borei Keila forced evictions gathered on Friday, holding a demonstration to mark International Women’s Day and to demand the release of a land activist from jail.

The demonstration moved about the city, as participants called for the release of Yorm Bopha, who was sentenced to three years in jail in December on charges related to violent demonstrations.

“I appeal to the Cambodian government to respect women’s rights and release her,” said Tep Vanny, a leading activist against the Boeung Kak lake development project, which has displaced thousands of families from the Phnom Penh neighborhood.

The land disputes at both Phnom Penh neighborhoods have galvanized a core group of demonstrators—many of them women—that authorities have been unable to reach an agreement with, leading to numerous demonstrations, many of them violent, over the last five years.

No clashes were reported Friday.

Many demonstrators dressed up as prisoners as part of the protest. One of them, Song Srey Leap, said the court system is being used to punish activists.

Song Srey Leap, who is also against the Boeung Kak development, said housing activists are experiencing “all kinds of pressure” to stop demonstrating.