Boeung Kak tale resonates in Washington

 David Boyle, Phnom Penh Post, Jun. 08 2012
In Washington yesterday, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua lobbied US government officials to withhold military funding to the Cambodian government if it does not meet two political demands ahead of her meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday.

Mu Sochua said she would strongly urge Clinton to push the Cambodian People’s Party-dominated Cambodian government to release the “Boeung Kak 15”, who were jailed for protesting against forced evictions, before the US secretary of state arrives in Phnom Penh next month.

“I am confident and I have high hopes that Hillary will find a solution, and I asked that the solution be found, and that is the release of the women and the man before she arrives in July,” she said.

Thirteen Boeung Kak women were sentenced to jail terms of up to two and a half years on May 24 for disputing authority and illegally occupying land granted to ruling party Senator Lao Meng Khin’s firm Shukaku in 2007.

Two more people were arrested protesting the rushed trial on the same day and charged with the same crimes but have yet to go to trial.

US State Department officials and congressional staffers that she met told her they were aware and concerned by the jail sentences, said Mu Sochua, who is also demanding the government drop convictions against self-exiled SRP leader Sam Rainsy.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Quick and Press Reaction Unit, said, as a sovereign nation, Cambodia would not allow any foreign power to interfere with its independent judiciary.

“Well, I think that she [Mu Sochua] just has the right to tell anyone [anything], even tell the god to do something,” he said, adding that government balanced the rule of law with the protection of human rights.

When the Shukaku housing and commercial real estate development in the 133-hectare area in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district is completed, about 4,000 families will have been forcibly evicted.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com

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