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On Eve of Hunger Strike, Activists’ Families Appeal for Help

Cambodian land eviction victims wait for delivering a petition in front of U.S. Embassy to Cambodia during a rally, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. They demanded to release other land activists who were arrested during a protest.

Family members and supporters on Tuesday submitted a petition to Western embassies, calling for their help in ending a hunger strike of eight jailed activists.

All eight people are threatening a hunger strike, following their arrests and sudden prison sentences last month.

“I fear my mother will die in jail, because she has pledged to hold a hunger strike,” said Ou Kong Panha, the son of outspoken activist Tep Vanny.

Tep Vanny and seven others were arrested in November while protesting a development in the Boeung Kak lake community that led to the evictions of thousands of families, the filling in of a major lake in the north of the city, and, critics charge, created a new flood hazard for those residents who were able to remain.

They were arrested, tried and given one-year sentences in a matter of days, sparking an outcry from local and international rights organizations.

In a hand-written note from Prey Sar prison, all eight activists say they will begin a hunger strike on Wednesday that will last until they are released.

Tep Vanny’s husband, Oun Kong Chea, said Tuesday he requested their release from prison, but authorities have refused. Now, he said, he hopes Western embassies will intervene.