More than 50 supporters of jailed anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha marched through central Phnom Penh on Tuesday to demand her speedy retrial, acquittal and release, visiting the Supreme Court, the Royal Palace and the European Union and World Bank offices.
Ms. Bopha was convicted in December of ordering an attack on two tuk-tuk drivers and sentenced to a two-year jail term. Her supporters and rights groups say her conviction was politically motivated because of her frequent protests against evictions in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood.
Ms. Bopha has consistently professed her innocence and is waiting for the Supreme Court to schedule her retrial.
Bearing banners and waving the flags of some of Cambodia’s international donors, including Australia, Japan and the U.S., the protesters started out in front of the Supreme Court. From there, they marched to the Royal Palace to briefly pray for Ms. Bopha’s release and then back to the court before heading to the E.U. office.
“We want to ask the E.U. to push the government to respect human rights and find justice for Yorm Bopha because the E.U. is made of countries that respect human rights, not like the Cambodian government which only wants the people’s land,” said Song Srey Leap, one of the marchers.
Before the protesters reached their destination, dozens of police and military police attempted to block their approach down Street 240 by linking arms. But the protesters ran at the police and managed to break through the line with little resistance.
Once in front of the E.U., the group blocked northbound traffic along Norodom Boulevard and waited in hopes of arranging a meeting with Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain. But when an E.U. official informed them that the ambassador was out, they moved back to the World Bank, where they had slightly better luck.
Ms. Bopha’s husband, Luos Sakhorn, her 9-year-old son, and Boeng Kak activist Tep Vanny were let in for a brief meeting.
Afterward, Mr. Sakhorn said the representative promised to pass their requests up the chain.
“I still hope the E.U. and the World Bank will intervene with the government to find justice for my wife because she did not commit any crime,” he said.
In 2011, the World Bank froze all new funding to Cambodia in protest against the Boeng Kak evictions.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)
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