Veteran Boeng Kak Activist Back in Court Over Attack Order

A defiant Yorm Bopha, the prominent anti-eviction activist, was back at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh on Monday, 3 1/2 years after being convicted of ordering an assault on two motorbike taxi drivers.

Ms. Bopha was convicted in December 2012, along with her husband—who was released shortly afterward, and from whom she is now divorced—for ordering her two brothers to attack the drivers. She would spend more than a year in prison before having her sentence suspended.

Activist Yorm Bopha speaks to reporters outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Activist Yorm Bopha speaks to reporters outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

On Monday in court, Ms. Bopha maintained her innocence, saying authorities brought the case against her “to threaten the spirit of the Boeng Kak activists” and calling to have the conviction expunged. 

“Please mister judge, acquit me of the charges, because I didn’t commit the crime,” she said, adding she had no knowledge of whether her brothers, Yorm Kanlong and Yorm Sith, were involved in the assault. They were convicted in absentia and are still being sought, officials say.

Calling her 444 days behind bars “unjust,” she said that if next week’s expected verdict did not go her way, she would again appeal to the Supreme Court.

Chan Socheat, a lawyer for Ms. Bopha, said in court that it was clear the motorbike drivers had been attacked, but that his client had nothing to do with it.

“This incident really happened to the victims, but it was not ordered by my client, and police do not have suitable evidence to inculpate my client,” he told Presiding Judge Pol Sam Oeun.

Vath Sarath, the father of one of the drivers and uncle to the other, accused Ms. Bopha of lying in court.

“I hope the court sentences her according to the law,” he said by telephone after the hearing.

Ms. Bopha was convicted of ordering the assault on the two men, who were said to have ripped a mirror off her family’s car, and originally handed a three-year prison sentence, but the Appeal Court suspended it upon upholding the verdict.

The Supreme Court released her on bail in December 2013 but ordered the Appeal Court to reinvestigate the case, citing errors in their investigation.

Judge Sam Oeun said the appeal proceedings had been delayed on at least three occasions, without explaining why, but blamed Ms. Bopha’s recent move to Kompong Chhnang province as a complicating factor.

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