Land Activist’s Trial Adjourned After Descending Into Chaos

The trial of prominent activist Tep Vanny was postponed on Friday after the hearing descended into chaos when she became enraged upon learning that new complainants against her were from the notoriously violent Daun Penh district security guard unit.

Ms. Vanny was being questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over a 2013 protest in which about 30 residents of the capital’s eviction-hit Boeng Kak neighborhood attempted to deliver a petition seeking the release of fellow activist Yorm Bopha. State security forces beat 10 of the activists and threw others in police trucks.

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Prominent Boeng Kak activist Tep Vanny smiles as she is transported to a hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

During questioning, Ms. Vanny erupted after catching a glimpse of one of the plaintiffs, Hor Hoeun, who was a member of the Daun Penh district security guards, a unit that gained notoriety for brutality before and after the 2013 general election.

Mr. Hoeun and another guard, Uk Rotana, claim they were knocked unconscious by Ms. Vanny after she pelted them with plastic bottles, soft drink cans and shoes.

“Oh, he is a plaintiff? How are you so fat yet would let women beat you?” Ms. Vanny shouted as Mr. Houen entered the courtroom.

“I feel bad when the plaintiff is the person who beat us while we protested for nearly 10 years,” she said, yelling and pointing directly to his face.

“You harassed me for 10 years and put me in jail three times.”

Presiding Judge Long Kesphirum attempted to regain some order by telling Mr. Hoeun to leave the courtroom while he continued questioning Ms. Vanny.

“Why did you go there? What was your purpose?” he asked her of the petition delivery.

“We went to find justice for the land issue and to call for the release Ms. Yorm Bopha. I never asked anyone to beat the authorities,” she replied.

“It was only the Daun Penh guards who used violence against us,” she added.

The judge then called Mr. Hoeun back into the courtroom, but security guards couldn’t locate him. As a result, the judge adjourned the hearing without mentioning when it would be rescheduled.

“I see now the situation is messy and I’m feeling unwell,” Judge Kesphirum said.

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