The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday evening sentenced Tep Vanny and six fellow activists to a year in prison, just moments after convicting the group of obstructing traffic for having placed a bed in the middle of Monivong Boulevard on Monday to protest the flooding of their Boeng Kak neighborhood.
“The court sentenced them to a year in prison and fined them 2 million riel [about $500] each after charging them under Article 78 [of the Traffic Law] for obstructing public traffic,” said Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, who was present in the courtroom.
The seven women were arrested Monday in front of City Hall after district security guards had moved their bed off the road.
The stunt was meant to draw attention to the persistent flooding of their homes, which they blame on the filling-in of Boeng Kak lake for a development project backed by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin.
The protesters said their homes had been inundated with filthy water since Thursday and were demanding that the city clear the surrounding drains immediately.
“The people were asking for a solution, but the authorities did not find one for them and arrested them instead,” Mr. Sam Ath said.
Of the seven women sentenced Tuesday, five already had standing convictions from 2012 for protesting against evictions taking place in Boeng Kak to make way for Mr. Meng Khin’s project.
In that case, the municipal court charged the “Boeng Kak 13” with obstructing public officials and illegally occupying land. The court convicted and sentenced them to two-and-a-half years in prison on the same day.
The Appeal Court released them a month later after reducing their sentences to time served, but upheld the convictions.