PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA —
Housing rights activist Tep Vanny broke down in tears at the Supreme Court on Wednesday after it ruled that she would not be granted bail.
The Boeung Kak lake campaigner was jailed in August after taking part in a protest in the capital calling for the release of four rights workers and an election official who are being held on corruption-related charges widely viewed as politically motivated.
Vanny has also called for a thorough investigation into the killing of political commentator Kem Ley, who was fatally shot in Phnom Penh in July.
She said the decision to deny her bail was also politically motivated.
“They are taking me as a political slave,” she said.
Activists and communities affected by evictions gathered outside the court to show their support to Vanny.
Bov Sophea, another Boeung Kak activist, said the decision not to release Vanny was down to one man: Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Hun Sen’s regime led me to understand what justice and injustice really mean,” she said.
Vanny told Judge Kim Sathavy during the hearing last week that she was too weak to be violent towards security forces, the charge on which she is being detained.
Her mother, Sy Heap, said Vanny had not “raised even a hand” to the security forces. “They accused my daughter of doing that as an excuse to jail her.”
The decision came amid a stalling of negotiations to end ongoing political tensions in Cambodia between Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party currently led by its deputy leader, Kem Sokha.
Lao Mong Hay, a political analyst and former advisor to Sokha, said it was unlikely the numerous “prisoners of conscience” would be released until the run up to the 2018 general election.
Chin Malin, justice ministry spokesman, defended the court’s ruling, saying that “losers always accuse the courts” of wrongdoing.