Supporters of jailed anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha said Tuesday that some 500 people will march from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood to the Supreme Court today to mark the one-year anniversary of her arrest and to demand her acquittal.
Arrested on September 4, 2012, and convicted of ordering the beating of two tuk-tuk drivers, Ms. Bopha was handed a three-year prison term. The Appeal Court upheld the verdict in June but suspended one year of the sentence. She is currently waiting for the Supreme Court to schedule her retrial.
Human rights groups and supporters say the charges were politically motivated and the trials a farce, and have accused authorities of targeting Ms. Bopha because of her activism against evictions in Boeng Kak to make way for a real estate project owned by a senator in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
In a statement released Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of Ms. Bopha’s arrest, Amnesty International also called for her release.
“Yorm Bopha is a prisoner of conscience, jailed for her peaceful activism and defending the rights of those in her community who lost their homes through forced evictions,” Amnesty’s deputy Asia Pacific director, Isabelle Arradon, said.
Tep Vanny, a fellow Boeng Kak activist, said participants would attempt the march today even though the municipal authorities have refused to permit it.
“We will march from our community to the Supreme Court even if police prevent or arrest us,” she said. “We hope Yorm Bopha will be freed some day because she didn’t commit this crime, and we will push the court to hear her case as soon as possible and find justice for her.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed that the group had been denied permission to march. “We aren’t allowing them to march because it affects public security and causes traffic jams along the street,” he said.
At both her trials, Ms. Bopha denied any involvement in the August 2012 attack of the tuk-tuk drivers, and rights workers who monitored the hearings said the testimony by the plaintiffs was marred by contradictions and inconsistencies.