In two separate cases the Cambodian Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected appeals by five opposition party members and the country’s most prominent land-rights activist.
Judge Soeung Panhavuth found without merit a request from the five Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials to add their names to a petition to nullify a lower court decision in their case.
While the appeals court last year rejected the nullification petition, Chuong Choungy, a lawyer for the five, told RFA's Khmer Service their names mysteriously went missing from the complaint.
“Although the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, meaning that they will not agree to include the names of the five into the nullity case at the appeals court, as their lawyer, I see that the incarcerated five still can lodge a new complaint with the appeals court to include their names into the nullity case," he said.
Ouk Pich Samnang, the only defendant in the courtroom, accused the Cambodian courts of being lackeys for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
“We must fearlessly devote ourselves and dare to do anything we can for the sake of our nation,” he said. “We shall never hold back and be defeated by cheap activities under the leadership of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen.”
Ouk Pich Samnang and 10 other opposition figures including CNRP media director Meach Sovannara were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years on insurrection charges for clashing with police over the closure of a protest site in the capital in 2014.
In a separate case Judge Kim Sothavy upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision to keep prominent land activist Tep Vanny locked up pending her unscheduled trial.
The activist was charged in August with incitement for her part in protests near Hun Sen’s residence in 2013.
“I was born in a dark society surrounded by all kinds of unfairness and injustice everywhere,” she said after the hearing. “Where is the light of justice? I want to see it.”
While the protest occurred in 2013, the case was reactivated when Tep Vanny was arrested for participating in a protest in August 2016.
Tep Vanny first gained prominence as an activist fighting the Boeung Kak Lake land grab, when some 3,500 families were evicted from the neighborhood surrounding the urban lake in Phnom Penh.
The lake was later filled with sand to make way for a development project with close ties to Hun Sen and the CPP.
Seizure of land for development—often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents— is a major cause of protests in Cambodia and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Laos.
Reported by Mam Moniroth for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.