Thirteen land protesters who were seized during a demonstration earlier this week were handed heavy prison sentences after a quick court hearing on Thursday, even as two more people were arrested and a monk was facing the threat of defrocking for participating in similar land demonstrations.
The 13 women were found guilty of illegally taking land and resisting public officers. Each received a jail term of between one year and two-and-a-half years. They were arrested this week when they tried to rebuild a home at the Boeung Kak lake development in protest of a forced eviction there earlier this year.
“They have been doubly victimized,” said Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. “Victimized by the court and victimized by the land concession to the private company.”
About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the court on Thursday, as the women were remanded to Prey Sar prison. Two of those demonstrators were arrested Tuesday afternoon and were held without charge, the center said in a statement.
Those imprisoned were Kong Chantha, Tol Sreypov, Tep Vanny, Pov Sophea, Suong Samai, Pan Chhunret, Heng Nom, Chan Navy, Po Davy, Nguon Kimleang, Song Sreyleap, Chheng Leap and Nget Kun. Seven of the women received sentences of two years and six months; five were given two years; and one was sentenced to one year in prison.
“Even though they are condemned, the Boeung Kak lake [conflict] will not end,” said Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho. The women were convicted on thin evidence, he said, including a video clip that did not include any of the seven defendants on trial, he said.
Meanwhile, Loun Savath, a monk who is also a prominent human rights activist, was forced into a vehicle at Wat Botum in Phnom Penh and is reportedly defrocked, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said Thursday. He was driven away by unidentified men after being surrounded by police and officials from the ministries of Interior and Religion.