Boeng Kak Sentences for Insulting Upheld; Three Still Free

Activists from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood staged a familiar chaotic scene at the Court of Appeal on Monday as guilty verdicts were upheld against four activists, including Tep Vanny, for their roles in a 2011 protest.

The four were sentenced to six months in prison in September for insulting and obstructing public officials during a land rights protest in November 2011, in which activists threw rocks, high-heeled shoes and other objects at security forces that had moved in to disperse them with batons and riot shields.

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Police escort activist Tep Vanny, center, into the Court of Appeal on Monday in Phnom Penh. (Emil Kastrup/The Cambodia Daily)

The case had lain dormant until August, when it was dredged up amid a renewed legal assault on government critics. While Ms. Vanny has been imprisoned since, the remaining three have continued their activism pending appeal.

Arriving at the court just before 9 a.m., Ms. Vanny, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison last week for her role in a 2013 protest, was ushered through dozens of reporters and shouting supporters to join fellow activists Kong Chantha, Bo Chhorvy and Heng Mom in the dock. Supporters were blocked from entering the courtroom by police and repeatedly told to stop shouting, although some were eventually allowed to sit inside for the verdict.

Presiding Judge Nhoung Thol then announced that the verdict had been upheld. “We have seen that the defendants did commit the crime as the municipal court ruled,” he said.

At that point, Ms. Vanny erupted and began shouting at the judge.

“Your decision is going to destroy your life because the Buddha will curse you! You make our lives so tough,” Ms. Vanny said.

Ms. Mom, who was evicted from her home when land around the Boeng Kak lake was leased to a company with links to the government in 2007 and the lake was filled in, also chastised the court system.

“The government has already destroyed my property,” she told the court. “I have suffered because of development for many years. Why don’t you just let us stay in comfort?”

A shouting Ms. Vanny was then bundled into a waiting police van, while the three other convicted activists joined others to protest outside the court.

All four have 30 days to appeal the Appeal Court’s decision, at which point it will be sent to the Supreme Court for a final ruling.

(Additional reporting by George Wright)

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