City Hall intervenes in Bopha case

By Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post,  20 November 2013

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Free Bopha demonstrators march around the Supreme Court chanting prayers in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Just days before the Supreme Court hears the final appeal of imprisoned land-rights activist Yorm Bopha, a letter obtained yesterday reveals that Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong has met with Bopha’s husband and her accusers after both parties requested intervention to “end the case”.

According to the letter, Lous Sakhorn, Bopha’s husband, asked Socheatvong to intervene and have his wife freed from prison, while her alleged victims, motodops Vat Thaiseng and Nget Chet, “also asked Phnom Penh City Hall to intervene to end this case”.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said yesterday that Sakhorn and Bopha’s father, Yorm Yen, had “reconciled” with the alleged victims during meetings at City Hall last Friday.

“To me, when both sides agree to reconcile with one another, it means the plaintiff has dropped the charges against the defendant,” Dimanche said.

But E Sophors, president of motodops group the Cambodia Confederation Development Association, said the intervention the alleged victims sought was more about being paid compensation.

“We need compensation for the treatment of our members. Dropping the charges should be decided by the court,” he said.

The letter bears the thumbprints of Socheatvong, Sakhorn, Yen, a City Hall official, a lawyer, both alleged victims and Sophors.

Sakhorn, 57, said yesterday that he was asked to appear at City Hall on Friday by Sok Penhvuth, the deputy chief of Daun Penh district, along with Yen, to negotiate with his wife’s two alleged victims.

According to the letter, both parties requested intervention in letters sent earlier this month.

Last December, Bopha was convicted on a charge of intentional violence after the court ruled she had ordered a screwdriver and axe attack on the two motodops at Boeung Kak.

She was sentenced to three years in prison, a sentence that was effectively reduced to two years when she appealed in June.

During her appeal trial, a judge said the testimony of Bopha’s accusers contradicted earlier statements they had made, while rights groups say charges against her were motivated by her land activism.

Yesterday, nearly 100 lotus-wielding activists rallied outside the capital’s Supreme Court building, calling for Bopha’s release ahead of her final appeal hearing on Friday.

The imprisoned woman’s 8-year-old son was by his father’s side during the protest.

Demonstrators circulated around the Supreme Court building three times to the thrum of a drumbeat, tossing paper copies of the accusations lodged against Bopha into a bowl, which were then lit on fire and left to smoulder.

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Lous Sakhorn, the husband of imprisoned Yorm Bopha, talks to the media earlier this year. Pha Lina

Boeung Kak representative Tep Vanny, 32, who was among the supporters, said she was hopeful Bopha would be released.

“This is her last chance, but whatever the Supreme Court’s decision, she must see justice – we can’t ever lose hope,” Vanny said, adding that she had visited Bopha in prison only yesterday.

Amnesty International launched a worldwide campaign yesterday calling for Bopha’s release, involving activists in more than 30 different countries.

Rupert Abbott, the organisations’s researcher on Cambodia, told the Post yesterday that Bopha’s release would be a step forward for human rights in Cambodia.

“Amnesty International considers Yorm Bopha a prisoner of conscience. Thousands of our members around the world are taking action to call for her immediate and unconditional release,” he said.