High court appeal for Boeung Kak 13

Wednesday, Phnom Penh Post, 11 July. 2012

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People affected by Shukaku Inc’s controversial development project at Boeung Kak lake hold a demonstration yesterday in front of the US embassy in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Thirteen Boeung Kak lake women imprisoned after a three-hour trial in May and released last month had appealed their guilty convictions to the Supreme Court, their lawyer said yesterday.

“They told us they are completely dissatisfied with the verdict of the Appeal Court, which maintained the accusations of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court,” Ham Sunrith told the Post.

“We will try to take this to the Supreme Court to demand justice for these 13 women,” he said, adding an appeal was filed on Friday.

The women were arrested at Boeung Kak lake during a land protest on May 22.

They were charged two days later with occupying state land and obstructing public officials in aggravating circumstances and were tried, convicted and sentenced in three hours in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to two and a half years in Prey Sar prison.

After widespread condemnation of the trial, the Court of Appeal reduced the women’s sentences on June 27 to time already served, but upheld the guilty verdicts.

The court said the women had helped villagers “rebuild” their houses on state land, which has been awarded to CPP senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku company, but released them because many of them had children and were unaware of the law.

Tol Srey Pov, one of the 13, said the women had not been involved in any violent activity, such as using weapons or throwing rocks at police.

“We think the Appeal Court didn’t give us [justice]. We didn’t commit these crimes,” she said, adding that they were grateful for their release, but wanted their names cleared.

Sam Rainsy lawmaker Mu Sochua, who said in the wake of the women’s release that the guilty verdicts meant nothing, said yesterday it was important that they be overturned.

“What needs to be done more to the Boeung Kak lake issue is the full return of their land and all charges against them must be dropped,” she said.

Sia Phearum, secretariat-general of the Housing Rights Task Force, said it was time for the authorities to demarcate land at Boeung Kak to resolve the dispute.

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