PHNOM PENH —
A prominent anti-eviction activist was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for taking part in a violent protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in 2013.
Long Kesphirum, Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge, also fined Tep Vanny, a Boeung Kak lake activist, to pay a total of 14 million riel ($3,500) in compensation to the state and plaintiffs.
During Thursday’s hearing, protests took place outside the court, leading four protesters to be badly beaten by district security forces.
“If I died today in exchange for the release of Tep Vanny, I would be willing to do that. If I died today so that the leaders would realize and treasure citizens, I would die. If I alone could change our Prime Minister to look after and adore citizens, I would die,” Bov Sophea, one of the beaten activists, told VOA Khmer.
An opposition commune council candidate, Mao Socheat, was chased into a nearby supermarket and beaten after he attempted to stop the guards from attacking women at the protest.
Meth Meas Pheakdey, court spokesman, said the guards had attacked protesters because they had refused to leave the court.
“First, they [security forces] asked them [the protesters], as always, to move to the other side of the road and not to disturb their jobs. And most of the protesters listened to authorities' request, except three people as I remember,” he said.
Vanny was jailed in August last year after she had repeatedly joined so-called Black Monday protests, demanding the release of four jailed activists and an election official and an investigation into the daylight killing of prominent social and political analyst Kem Ley, who was killed in July.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at local rights group Licadho, told reporters after the sentencing that the hearing was improperly conducted in the absence of plaintiffs and witnesses.
Sixty-one civil society groups issued a joint statement on Thursday expressing regret over the court’s decision.