EU, World Bank Handed Petitions to Help Free Tep Vanny

More than 30 Boeng Kak activists delivered petitions to the E.U. and World Bank’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Wednesday morning asking the two bodies to lobby government officials for the release of prominent activist Tep Vanny ahead of a court appeal against her prison sentence next week, the activists said.

Ms. Vanny, 36, was arrested in August for leading a demonstration calling for the release of five human rights defenders—since freed on bail—who were imprisoned over what are widely believed to be politically motivated charges.

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Boeng Kak community members call for the release of prominent activist Tep Vanny in front of the EU headquarters in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning. (John Vink)

Years-old charges were laid against her, and in February she was sentenced to two-and-ahalf years in prison for charges stemming from a 2013 protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh mansion.

“Tep Vanny is being detained in prison for many long days,” fellow activist Sung Sreyleap said on Wednesday. The courts had convicted Ms. Vanny “without finding the truth,” Ms. Sreyleap said.

Ms. Vanny has appealed the sentence and is set to appear before the Appeal Court next Thursday—at which point the E.U. and World Bank’s influence could assist in her release, Ms. Sreyleap said.

“We hope they will intervene with the government for her release,” she said.

Ms. Sreyleap did not explain how she thought the two bodies could sway the court’s decision.

Nevertheless, at about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, a group of 30 supporters from her eviction-hit neighborhood of Boeng Kak had arrived at E.U. headquarters where they held a rally for about 20 minutes before delivering the letter, she said.

A similar letter was later delivered to the World Bank, she said.

Neither organization responded to requests for comment.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the organizations’ input would have no impact on the court’s decision. “The court is independent and they enjoy their sovereignty. Nobody has the right to interfere with due process as well as a decision,” he said. “Nobody could interfere.”

The current charge against Ms. Vanny is over claims that she used violence against Daun Penh district security guards during a similar demonstration four years back. The activist, meanwhile, claims it was the Daun Penh guards who attacked the protesters.,

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