PHNOM PENH - Housing rights demonstrators gathered in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to demand the release of one of their representatives.
Palace officials accepted a letter for King Norodom Sihamoni, asking him to intervene in Yorm Bopha’s case.
Yorm Bopha was sentence to three years in prison in December, on assault-related charges, but rights workers say she is innocent and that her case is proof the courts are being used to dissuade further demonstrations against forced evictions and land grabs.
The group of activists represent several of Cambodia’s major evictions, including those in the Boeung Kak lake, Borei Keila and Thamor Kuol neighborhoods.
Tep Vanny, a representative for Boeung Kak residents, told VOA Khmer that palace officials had promised to deliver their letter to the king, who celebrated his 60th birthday Tuesday. She acknowledged that many such pleas have been sent to the king and gone unanswered, but she said she hoped the birthday celebration might mean a favorable outcome.
“There are a lot of prisoners who committed terrible crimes but were given royal pardons from our king, so why not Yorm Bopha, who didn’t do anything but protect her land?” Tep Vanny said.
Sia Phearum, secretary-general of the Housing Rights Task Force, an advocacy group, said the king has the right to pardon anyone he chooses.
However, government spokesman Phay Siphan said even prisoners who receive a pardon must do so according to the law.