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Mother of Four, Jailed for Leading Protest, Appeals Court Decision


Supporters of Long Sokunthy, who represents more than 300 villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a local tycoon, rallied in front of the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court, calling for her release from prison, April 2, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Licadho)

Long Sokunthy, 42, represents some 300 people who are locked in a long-running land dispute with a local tycoon.

A mother of four who protested against a wealthy tycoon’s development plans is to see her appeal heard in Banteay Meanchey province this month.

Long Sokunthy was arrested by police during a demonstration on March 26 and remanded into custody. She was later handed criminal charges for trespassing and criminal damage. She was sentenced to one year in prison for the crimes.

Sokunthy, 42, represents some 300 people who are locked in a long-running land dispute with a local tycoon.

Her lawyer, Som Tith Seyha, said on Thursday that he had lodged a request for bail on April 3 and expects the charges to be dropped.

“The court has dozens of witnesses who can attest [that she is innocent] to ensure she is granted bail. She will not cause any trouble, or escape, or use violence on others or destroy evidence,” he said.

“We have enough evidence to ensure her bail request. We hope that the Appeals Court will decide to free her. This is not a serious criminal case... it’s purely about land.”

Sokunthy’s community in O’Beichoan in Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district is embroiled in a land dispute with tycoon Sam Sophanarith over about 2,000 hectares of land.

Sophanarith could not be reached for comment.

Ny Saranith, Sokunthy’s 19-year-old daughter, said her mother’s arrest was unfair. “I want my mum to leave prison because her health is not good and the people rely on her. They are not well-educated people. They say ‘without a representative, there is no hope’.”

In Kongchet, a rights worker with local group Licadho, said protesters who supported Sokunthy on Wednesday stopped their demonstrations, which court officials had labeled “illegal”.

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