Around 200 evictees from two Phnom Penh developments gathered in front of the National Assembly on Monday, demanding that 15 of their representatives be released from jail.
The representatives were arrested in protests last week. Thirteen of them were hastily sentenced to lengthy jail terms for attempting to rebuild houses on the Boeung Kak development site, which has seen the forced eviction of thousands of families since 2008.
The protesters, from the Boeung Kak and Borei Keila eviction sites, carried banners and bouquets of lotus flowers as they delivered a petition addressed to the Assembly’s human rights committee. The finger-printed petition asks for the release of the fifteen representatives “because their arrests were related purely to the land dispute,” and not to their crimes.
Thirteen of the representatives are currently at Prey Sar prison, facing jail terms between one year and two-and-a-half years, for attempting to reconstruct a house that had been demolished in a forced eviction at the Boeung Kak site earlier this year. Two more were arrested during demonstrations against the court sentencing of the thirteen.
Loun Savath, an activist monk briefly detained last week and told by Buddhist authorities not to join protests, was present at Monday’s demonstration. Son Chhay, a lawmaker from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, was also present at the protest.
National Assembly officials could not be reached for comment. Protesters said Monday they would continue their demonstration if their representatives are not released.