The Cambodian authorities must release housing rights activist Yorm
Bopha who was imprisoned after an unfair trial, Amnesty International
said ahead of her appeal hearing this week.
On 27 December 2012,
the Municipal Court in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh convicted Yorm
Bopha, 31, for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances”,
sentencing her to three years’ imprisonment.
She was accused of
planning an assault on two men in August 2012. But during the trial
witness testimonies were inconsistent, sometimes conflicting with each
other, and some witnesses admitted to being intoxicated when the alleged
“The lack of credible evidence against Yorm
Bopha suggests that the charges were baseless and she should not have
been convicted. Yorm Bopha should be released immediately and
unconditionally,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy
Asia Pacific Director.
”Yorm Bopha is one of an increasing
number of Cambodian human rights defenders who have faced harassment,
spurious legal action and violence over the past year.”
Bopha has been in jail since her arrest on 4 September 2012, leaving
behind her young son and husband who is in ill health.
then, she had been actively defending the right to housing of her
community at the former Boeung Kak Lake in Phnom Penh, where thousands
of people have been forcibly evicted from their homes since the land was
leased to a company in 2007.
She played a leading role in the
campaign for the release of 13 female community activists – the “Boeung
Kak 13” – when they were convicted and sentenced to up to two-and-a-half
years’ imprisonment in May 2012, after a peaceful protest.
reality, it seems that Yorm Bopha has been convicted for her legitimate
work defending her community’s human rights and her calls last year for
the release of the Boeung Kak 13,” said Arradon.
International considers her a prisoner of conscience, jailed for
exercising the right to freedom of expression through her peaceful
The Boeung Kak Lake community has faced violence for
demonstrating peacefully for Yorm Bopha’s release. On 13 March 2013,
security forces attacked the community as they demonstrated peacefully
near the Cambodian Prime Minister’s house, with one woman suffering a
broken arm and another in her 70s knocked unconscious.
March 2013, Cambodia’s Supreme Court rejected Yorm Bopha’s application
for provisional release while she appealed her conviction. The decision
followed public comments one week earlier by the Cambodian Prime
Minister, who effectively said that Yorm Bopha was guilty.
“The case appears to be another example of Cambodia’s courts being used to persecute human rights defenders,” said Arradon.
hope that Cambodia’s development partners – such as the US, the EU,
Japan and ASEAN member states - will join Amnesty International and
others in supporting the Boeung Kak Lake community’s calls for Yorm