activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: cambodia

cambodian protesters in custody since january given suspended sentences and freed

On January 3, Cambodian military police opened fire with assault rifles to quell a strike by garment factory workers who make clothes for corporations such as Gap, Nike, and H&M. The police killed at least three people. According to today’s Malay Mail article,

Cambodia’s textile industry provides clothes and footwear for many in the West and employs some 650,000 local people. Workers have staged months of strikes and street protest demanding better safety standards and a doubling of the minimum wage to US$160 a month, or about US$8 a day. So far the government has offered them US$100.

Since January 3, 23 protesters have been in custody for allegedly causing damage and acts of violence. Their trial started on April 25 and ended today. The arrestees were found guilty but received suspended sentences, ranging from one to four and a half years, meaning they could walk free.

cambodian land rights activist yorm bopha to be released on bail

Yorm Bopha will be released on bail sometime today. The Cambodian Supreme Court ordered that Bopha’s case be further investigated and re-tried. Apparently the Court of Appeals failed to address some of the evidence presented.

Bopha said the Supreme Court should have simply dropped the charges against her. Incarcerated since September 4, 2012, she was convicted on December 27 of assault, a trumped-up charge, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. In June, the Court of Appeals upheld her conviction but reduced her sentence to two years.

Human Rights Watch has said the charges against Bopha were an attempt to retaliate against her for her activism. According to today’s TIME article,

Land grab grievances came to a head in 2012, when fierce protests were sparked in the Boeung Kak area of the capital, Phnom Penh, and thirteen women were convicted for occupying land illegally. In the aftermath, Bopha became the most vocal activist fighting for the women’s release, for which she received numerous threats and was frequently harassed.

As Slavoj Žižek has written, we should “keep in view the dark underside of global capitalism that is fomenting revolts.”

court upholds conviction of land rights activist yorm bopha, but reduces her sentence

Yorm Bopha is one of the leaders of protests against evictions in the Boeng Kak area of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On Friday, the Court of Appeals in Phnom Penh upheld her conviction of assault, a trumped-up charge. Yet the court reduced her three-year sentence to two years. According to yesterday’s news release by Human Rights Watch,

Yorm Bopha was originally convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in December 2012, for allegedly masterminding a conspiracy involving her husband and two brothers… The absence of credible evidence against her showed that the charges were a politically motivated attempt to retaliate against her for her activism. She was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, while her husband received a suspended jail term. The brothers were convicted in absentia and sentenced to prison.

Bopha filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on Monday. Yesterday protesters descended on the Royal Palace to submit a petition to Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, pleading for an intervention on Bopha’s behalf, but more than 60 officers and riot police cracked down on the demonstration. After officers grabbed portraits of Bopha, protesters swung at officers with sarongs and attempted to push them back. Following a brief clash, the protesters read their petition over loudspeakers and submitted it to two officials from the palace.

outspoken land rights activist yorm bopha denied bail

Thousands of Cambodians are fighting eviction, as developers have received the right to develop areas where people already live. Very few people have land titles after the Khmer Rouge abolished private property and almost all such documents were destroyed. As a result, the state claims to own upwards of eighty percent of Cambodia’s land. According to yesterday’s BBC article,

The bulldozers moved in to start demolishing the flimsy houses around Boeng Kak lake in 2008. There have been clashes with local residents ever since. Some have been beaten by riot police as they tried to block the developers, other[s] have been arrested and charged. Many of them are women.

Yorm Bopha is one of the land rights activists who has been jailed for protesting the evictions. Incarcerated since September 4, she was convicted on December 27 of assault, a trumped-up charge, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. On Wednesday, the Cambodian Supreme Court denied Bopha’s request for bail pending her appeal.

To quote Texas-based intelligence contractor Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), which compiles dossiers on activists, “as protest movements grow, authorities will act more aggressively to neutralize the organizers.”