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Cambodia jails women protesting against forced evictions


Karen Whiteley
WVoN co-editor

Thirteen female protesters arrested last week at a peaceful demonstration in Boeung Kak Lake, Cambodia, were sentenced to jail on Thursday.

The women, members of the League of Boeung Kak Women Struggling for Housing Rights, were protesting against the forced eviction of their community from land being cleared to make way for private developments.

Twelve of the women were sentenced to between two and two and a half years in jail. One woman was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.

The proposed development, to build shopping centres and high rises, is one of the most contentious in Cambodia.

Attempts to evict the families on land surrounding the lake in Phnom Penh have been on-going since 2007 when private development firm Shukaku bought Boeung Kak lake. Shukaku is headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful men.

Protests against the evictions have become increasingly violent, with a 14-year-old girl being shot dead at another protest the week before the arrests.

The protest last week included 18 families who had been evicted from Boeung Kak in 2010, and who had vowed to rebuild their homes. As a result, around 200 police were deployed at the protest.

The women were arrested on May 22 and charged with illegally obtaining land and inciting others to illegally obtain land.

Their trial took place just two days later and lasted a mere three hours. The women had no legal representation during the trial.

According to the husband of one of the women,Tep Vanny:

‘The judgment on my wife and other women in Boeung Kak was not legal.

‘Correct procedures were not followed. The judge refused to bring important witnesses to the hearing, which is a right protected under the constitution.’

The husband of another of the jailed women, Heng Mom, said they intend to appeal their convictions.

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