Support 12 women and 3 monks sentenced to 1 year because of their involvement in pacific demonstrations

Support 12 women and 3 monks sentenced to 1 year because of their involvement in pacific demonstrations

I am a Land Rights activist involved working in a local organization called Housing Rights Task Force for the last 3 years. My NGO had been following the Boeung Kak Land Rights activists since they lost their homes when the Government granted their land to the senator Lao Meng Khin for a private development project. Their land case is not an isolated one: more than 750.000 Cambodians have been affected by forced evictions since 2001.

The Boeung Kak Community members have organized themselves under the grass-roots association called “Women campaign for freedom and development”, their goals are to support evicted families to get a fair compensation and end authorities’ violence against women.

On November 10th 2014, seven representatives from Boeung Kak Lake community, after protesting in front of the City Hall over alleged deliberate drainage problems under the control of city hall authorities, were detained.

Areas near the site of the former lake have suffered from extreme flooding problems after almost 20,000 people were forcefully evicted from the area in 2008. Following the leasing and filling of the former lake by Shukaku Company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) Senator Lao Meng Khin, flooding around the community has worsened, increasing health risks and causing damages to many homes and businesses in the surrounding community.

The seven Boeung Kak Lake representatives arrested include Nget Khun, Tep Vanny, Song Srey Leap, Kong Chantha, Phan Chhunreth – all previously arrested and convicted in 2012 in retaliation for their peaceful activism – as well as Bo Chorvy, and Nong Sreng.

In a summary trial that took place the day after their detention, all seven representatives were convicted and received a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a US$500 fine each for traffic obstruction.

Outside the Court four land rights activist were arrested while showing their support to the sevens undergoing trial: the Buddhist monk Soeung Hai, Boeung Kak resident Heng Pich, Boeung Kak evictee Im Srey Touch and Puong Sopheap of the Thmor Kol neighborhood, whose residents are also under threat of eviction. The group was convicted and sentenced with the maximum penalty under Article 504 of the criminal code to one year of prison each and fined $500 for obstructing public officials.

Four more detentions followed. Land right activists — Venerable Thach Sang and Venerable Khit Vannak, —were arrested Wednesday 12th November 2014. Both were en route to Samakki Raingsey pagoda to join farmers from Preah Vihear province who are involved in a land dispute there, and had planned to march to the Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house and the National Assembly. M. Ly Srea Kheng and Ly Seavminh were arrested on Tuesday November 14th 2014 at their home in Boeung Kak village 1 a cause of their resistance to abandon their land. 

The four activists were charged under article 499 of the Criminal Code. They are awaiting trial at the Prey Sor prison.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned court decisions, please see their full reports at:

http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/11/13/cambodia-new-crackdown-protesters

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA23/00...

The liberation of the jailed activists is important to safeguard evicted communities from further threats and securing a non-aggressive political environment to enable the victims of forced eviction and human rights defendants to keep fighting for the rule of law. Furthermore it’s important for Cambodians to believe on their freedom of expression and assembly. Finally, it is vital for the children and grand children of the jailed women who have endured fist the lost of their homes, and by the imprisonments of their mothers and grandmas, the destruction of their family. 

By supporting this initiative, you will empower the community and give a chance to the activists to get their freedom back.

This campaign is to fund community-based activities requesting the liberation of the jailed activists as well as to support jailed land rights activists expenses in prison. If we are successful and that the 15 are freed before the end of their sentence your donation will be used to support the “Women campaign for freedom and development” activities helping evicted families around Cambodia.

The community is suffering hard times since they were threatened of eviction. More than 2,000 families have lost their homes, their business and source of income. The situation is not better for the families that have earned their property titles from the Government. The neighborhood, before a touristic place, has become a slum, with a few hundreds of families living here facing increasing insecurity and sanitation problems.  The community even finding the courage to struggle has not the financial capacity to join into activities supporting the liberation of the 15.

The cost to join a daylong demonstration at the Prey Sor prison site, were the activist are jailed is, 4,5 USD per person including materials, transport, drinking water and food. There are 300 land right activists from evicted communities willing to join massive weekly demonstrations until the liberation of the 15. The activists are as well joining into several demonstrations for the same purpose to their own expenses. Demonstrating at Prey Sor prison is important for the community for two main reasons. The first is the emotional support that it provides to the prisoners and the second is that they consider it a successful strategy used in the past to free the 13s of Boeung Kak.

Nowadays jailed activist and their families are attending the appeal court. Nevertheless is unlikely the corrupt Cambodian judicial system will settle a date without being bribed. To avoid the corruption the community and NGOs had settle an every day "cursing" demonstrations strategy. The cost of it  is  0.33 USD per person. 

The cost to support drinking and shower water as well as clean food for a prisoner is 5 USD per day.

Supporting NGOs have taken care of the land rights activists’ demonstration fees. Nevertheless due to the unexpected events and the emergency of the fund needed, it has become difficult to economically support the community.

The Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) is one of the closest partners of the Boeung Kak Community. The local NGO has supported the community since the eviction. The NGO has been chosen by the community representatives to be the receptor and administrator of the fund raising campaign.

If you can’t support this campaign with funding it, you can sign the Amnesty International petition to liberate the activists here:

http://www.amnesty.fr/Nos-campagnes/Liberte-expression/Actions/Cambodge-liberez-Tep-Vanny-et-les-manifestants-de-Boeung-Kak-13301

Or just share this initiative with people that may be able to support us.

Please click the main page of the fund raising: 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/free-the-15-cambodian-land-rigths-activists

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