Cambodia top court upholds conviction of land rights activist


PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s Supreme Court upheld a conviction on Wednesday on a prominent land rights activist who was jailed for 2-1/2 years last year for her role in a 2013 protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house.

Tep Vanny, who fought the evictions of thousands of residents from lakeside land in the capital Phnom Penh to make way for a luxury real estate project, was found guilty of inciting violence and assaulting security guards while trying to deliver a petition to Hun Sen on a land dispute.

“The court rejected the appeal complaint by Ms Tep Vanny and upholds the verdict of the Appeal Court,” Supreme Court presiding judge Kim Sethavy told the court.

Judge Kim Sethavy referred to statements given earlier by three security guards that they were hit by protesters led by Tep Vanny in 2013.

Tep Vanny was seen crying and hugging her teenage daughter after the verdict before she was taken to a waiting prison van.

“I want freedom,” Tep Vanny told reporters from inside the van. “I want to go back outside and tell the prime minister not to make people suffer anymore.”

Forced evictions are a major problem in Cambodia, with thousands of families driven from farmland or urban areas to make way for development, mining and agricultural projects.

Tep Vanny denied the charges against her on Wednesday, saying that she did not use or urge protesters to use violence.

She told Reuters before the hearing that life inside the prison was harsh.

“One day in the prison is like one year,” she said.