Hunger strike ahead of hearing

By Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post, 04 June 2013

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Residents of the Boeung Kak lake community participate in a hunger strike in front of Phnom Penh’s Court of Appeal yesterday. The protesters are calling for the release of jailed campaigner Yorm Bopha, a key player in the evictee community. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Two days before the appeal trial of imprisoned Boeung Kak lake activist Yorm Bopha, some of her supporters went on a hunger strike yesterday to demand her release.

Led as usual by Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny, the group of four, dressed in white, set up outside the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh at about 9am and laid flowers spelling “Free Bopha” on the pavement.

One, Bo Chhorvy, said the group, all women, would remain there until this morning.

“We will keep striking here until Tuesday and will return again on Wednesday to support and encourage Yorm Bopha when the Court of Appeal hears her case,” she said.

But it wasn’t to be: Chhorvy, who had not eaten since Sunday night, fainted at about 8:30pm, while fellow activist Bov Sophea followed about 10 minutes later.

They were taken to NGO Licadho’s clinic for treatment, while the remaining two vowed to continue through the night.

In her prison cell at PJ prison, Bopha was also refraining from food yesterday, said her husband, Luos Sakhorn.

“My wife told me that she will not eat anything if Boeung Kak villagers set up this strike in order to gain justice and freedom for her,” he said.

Bopha was arrested in September, convicted of assault and sentenced in December to three years in prison.

Rights groups say the allegations against her – that she ordered her two brothers to savagely beat two motodops with an axe and screwdriver – were fabricated to silence her community.

They point to the fact that the two victims drank a large quantity of rice wine before the alleged attack but delivered precise testimony.

Supporters of the motodops have also staged protests, claiming  the matter is a clear-cut assault case.

 

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