Phnom Penh, 25 May 2012 — The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) condemns the conviction of 13 women embroiled in a land dispute with CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc. The Boeung Kak residents were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail yesterday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on charges of rebellion (article 504 of the Penal Code) and illegal occupation of land (article 34 of the Land Law). Five of them had their sentences suspended to two years, and another to one year. All were sent to Prey Sar prison immediately after sentencing. The women were arrested on 22 May as they were peacefully protesting against the destruction of their homes by Shukaku Inc. and attempting to rebuild them.
About fifty Boeung Kak residents, who protested on 22 May, are part of a group that has been left out of a deal awarding land titles to some evicted families.
ADHOC draws attention to the selective application of laws and regulations by the Cambodian authorities. Whereas companies continue to abuse the Land Law and Sub-Decree no. 146 on Economic Land Concessions—razing people’s land before official license is granted, neglecting to carry out required impact assessment and disregarding calls for compensation—, citizens who exert their right to peaceful protest are met with violence and judicial harassment. It is particularly disturbing that the 13 Boeung Kak women received hefty prison terms for occupying the disputed land for merely three hours, when companies continue to flagrantly ignore the laws with no consequences.
The unwarranted rebellion charges, the hastiness of the trial and the rushed verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court are indicative of the lack of due process upholding fair trial standards. In a legitimate democracy, citizens are granted the right to peacefully express dissent. The use of violence and criminal charges to silence opponents to unfair land deals demonstrates the shrinking space for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia.
The Boeung Kak women, one of whom is 67 years of age, should immediately have their freedom restored. Furthermore, in line with their own commitments, including recent directives by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Cambodian authorities should seek to finally resolve this ongoing land dispute by ensuring fair compensation to all of those affected.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Monitoring Section at ADHOC: 011 274 959
Mr. Chan Soveth, Deputy Head of Monitoring Section: 016 667 373
Mr. Nicolas Agostini, Technical Assistant: 078 405 024
Ms. Orla Kelly, Technical Assistant: 067 727 025
See attached pictures of the protest in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, 24 May 2012.