King Sihamoni Petitioned Over Jailed Boeng Kak Activist

About 50 women protested in front of the Royal Palace on Fri­day morning and handed in a petition to King Norodom Sihamoni, requesting his support in the case of jailed anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha, whose request for bail was turned down by the Supreme Court earlier this week.

Boeng Kak anti-eviction activist Kong Chantha, center, is flanked by two police officers as she prays for the release of jailed fellow activist Yorm Bopha outside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Friday. (Siv Channa)
Boeng Kak anti-eviction activist Kong Chantha, center, is flanked by two police officers as she prays for the release of jailed fellow activist Yorm Bopha outside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Friday. (Siv Channa)

The protesters said that a Royal Pardon from King Sihamoni is Ms. Bopha’s only chance to be freed from prison, and that they would continue to lobby the King for support until Ms. Bopha is released.

“Please Samdech Sihamoni and Queen Mother [Monineath] help to release Yorm Bopha and please… help to intervene for the land [we lived on] as well,” protesters from the Boeng Kak community yelled for about two hours outside the palace, until Laing Cham­nap, the Royal Palace’s Cabinet officer, accepted their petition.

“I will receive this petition,” Mr. Chamnap said. “I will hand it to my superior, but I’m not sure,” if King Sihamoni will receive the petition, he added.

Song Srey Leap, one of the protesters, said the petition is only the first.

“I hope that our petition will reach the King and Queen [Mother], and if it does not arrive with them, we will hand it in again and again until Yorm Bopha is re­leased,” Ms. Srey Leap said.

In September, Ms. Bopha, a 29-year-old mother, was arrested for allegedly ordering an attack on two motorcycle-taxi drivers.

Found guilty on the word of the two injured men, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Ms. Bopha, a longtime anti-eviction activist, to three years in prison for committing intentional violence with aggravating circumstances.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court denied Ms. Bopha’s request to be released on bail to take care of her family.

The petition to King Sihamoni states that the accusations against Ms. Bopha are untrue, and pleads with the King to ask the Justice Ministry to order Ms. Bopha’s release.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for local human rights group Licadho, said the appeal to the Royal Palace was the last option available to Ms. Bopha.

“The activists have protested many times and took petitions to many places but never got a satisfying result. So asking the King to intervene is their final chance,” he said.

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