The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced Tep Vanny and Bov Sorphea to six days in prison for leading a demonstration in their Boeung Kak lake neighborhood in the capital last week, according to a local rights group.
They were charged with “insulting public civil servants” for the Black Monday campaign protest, which included the cursing of effigies intended to symbolize corruption in the justice system.
After the 90-minute trial concluded, Judge Pich Vichea Thor read out the sentence. When the activists’ lawyer attempted to give a presentation in their defense, he was denied the right, according to a statement from the NGO Licadho.
Sia Nareth, a 58-year-old activist from the Boeung Kak lake community, said the activists would “absolutely not retreat” following the ruling.
Representatives of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court could not be reached for comments.
The trial also drew criticism from expatriate Cambodians.
Youhorn Chea, president of Cambodian Association of Victoria, in Australia, said Prime Minister Hun Sen should be mindful of shifting public opinion following the public murder of prominent political analyst and government critic Kem Ley last month.
“If people don’t love the government, that government won’t last long,” he said. “So I think Mr. Hun Sen should consider this point.”
Ear Kimsrang, a Cambodian living in Australia, said the Black Monday campaign, which has been banned by the government, was a “revolution of words” rather than an attempt to overthrow Hun Sen as officials have claimed.
Last week Human Rights Watch and some 60 local civil society groups called for the charges against Vanny and Sorphea to be dropped.