Phnom Penh Governor to Re-Examine Land Disputes

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Boeung Kak and Borei Keila activists holding posters of Yorm Bopha demonstrate outside the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh, May 8, 2013.
Boeung Kak and Borei Keila activists holding posters of Yorm Bopha demonstrate outside the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh, May 8, 2013.

The newly appointed governor of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh has vowed to re-examine two bitter land disputes that rocked the city under his predecessor’s term after meeting activists involved in the cases, his spokesman said Wednesday.

But Governor Pa Socheatvong, who took office on Monday, will not intervene on behalf of a jailed campaigner, Yorm Bopha, who had vigorously championed the evictees' right to housing.

Pa Socheatvong will review the cases of residents locked in disputes in the Boeung Kak Lake and Borei Keila area by next week, spokesman Long Dyman said.

"He will begin the work of leading the city for a week first and then he will examine the villagers’ documents,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

The new governor met on Tuesday with representatives from the two communities, who said he promised them a swift solution to the disputes, the local newspaper The Phnom Penh Post reported.

The meeting marked a departure from the policies of his predecessor Kep Chuketma, who refused to meet in recent years with the activists, who have staged countless demonstrations in the city on behalf of residents evicted to make way for luxury developments.

Long Dyman said Pa Socheatvong will not be intervening in the case of Yorm Bopha, a leading Boeung Kak activist who was jailed last year in a case critics have said was “manufactured” to target her for speaking out.

Her case is beyond the governor’s authority and only the courts can decide what happens to her, he said.

Yorm Bopha, 29, who has been held since early September, was convicted by the Phnom Penh municipal court in December for committing “intentional violence" in connection with the beating of a suspected thief, and in March the Supreme Court rejected her bail plea.

She has been named an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience and local rights groups have said her case smacks of political interference and should be thrown out.

Stepped up protests

Borei Keila and Boeung Kak activists have stepped up their protests in recent weeks, calling for Yorm Bopha’s release and demanding the city issue land titles for 64 Boeung Kak families excluded from a resettlement deal.

On Wednesday the activists staged a demonstration in front of the South Korean embassy and presented petitions to embassy officials, who did not give any assurance that they will raise the issue with the Cambodian government.

Boeng Kak community representative Tep Vanny said the residents have turned to ask foreign embassies for support because they are disappointed with the government and Prime Minister Hun Sen for delaying an resolution to the disputes.

"South Korea is a democratic country, so we think they have a duty to intervene our case," she told RFA.

Reported by Morm Moniroth for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.





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