World Bulletin / News Desk
Tep Vanny is a member of the Boeung Kak community, where thousands of residents started being forcibly evicted in 2008 to make way for a large-scale mixed development project.
She was the recipient of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award in 2013 for her work highlighting land rights issues -- the same year she took part in a protest outside the prime minister’s house, calling for the release from prison of a fellow community activist.
It was her role in that protest that landed her in jail Thursday, after she was accused of having attacked two security guards.
She was imprisoned for two-and-a-half years and ordered to pay the two men compensation.
Video footage posted on Facebook showed a man who had been outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court being followed into a mall across the street and beaten by a group of uniformed and plainclothes police and guards.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, described the case as yet another example of the lack of integrity in the Cambodian court system.
“The notion of judicial independence is really a bad joke in Cambodia, and in this case, the judge presided over a politically-motivated kangaroo court trial that proved no real evidence is required for a conviction,” he wrote to Anadolu Agency in an email.
“Impunity for local officials is on display here as Cambodian security guards used violence, but it was only a peaceful protester leader like Tep Vanny who got hauled into court and sent off to prison.”
Voices of dissent have frequently been targeted by authorities, but with the commune elections approaching in June -- and national elections to follow next year -- Vanny’s will not be one heard out on the streets.
On Monday, the National Assembly also approved amendments to the Law on Political Parties that would give the Supreme Court the power to dissolve parties at will.