Cambodia Frees Leading Land Rights Activist Tep Vanny After Royal Pardon

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Aug 31 10:23:37 BST 2018

Cambodia Frees Leading Land Rights Activist Tep Vanny After Royal Pardon

Chandran | 
| Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 August 2018
story is part of  Our new website shining a light 
on land and property rights around the world
Vanny led a campaign fighting the forced removal 
of thousands of residents to make way for a 
luxury real estate projectBy Rina Chandran

BANGKOK, Aug 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A 
Cambodian land rights activist has been released 
from prison after receiving a royal pardon, 
having spent more than two years in detention in 
a case that came to symbolise the struggle by 
local communities against evictions.

Tep Vanny had for years led a campaign fighting 
the forced removal of thousands of residents to 
make way for a luxury real estate project in the 
Boeung Kak lake area of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

The mother of two was found guilty of inciting 
violence and assaulting security guards while 
trying to deliver a petition to Prime Minister 
Hun Sen outside his residence in 2013, and 
sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Vanny’s return home on Monday night was broadcast 
live on a colleague’s Facebook page, and showed a 
crowd of people cheering her. She thanked them and hugged her children.

Rights groups welcomed the release of Vanny and 
three other women activists who were also 
pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni at Hun Sen’s request.

“Tep Vanny symbolises human rights in Cambodia. 
She was imprisoned for simply trying to exercise 
her rights and protect those of others,” said 
Sopheap Chak, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

“Her release is very welcome, and will send a 
signal of hope amidst an increasingly repressive 
context for human rights defenders,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The impoverished Southeast Asian country has been 
riven with conflict over land since the Khmer 
Rouge destroyed the nation’s property records to 
establish a form of communism in the 1970s.

Between 2000 and 2014, about 770,000 Cambodians – 
more than 6 percent of the population – were 
affected by land conflicts, according to human 
rights lawyers who filed a complaint at the 
International Criminal Court in 2014.

They were forced from farmland for mining and 
agriculture, and neighbourhoods in urban areas 
for real estate projects, according to rights groups.

Communities that protest come up against 
authorities and corporations who respond with 
intimidation, violence and judicial persecution, 
said a report by non-profit Cambodian League for 
the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO).

Vanny is the most prominent activist from the 
Boeung Kak area, where local neighbourhoods and 
backpacker hostels were strung around the scenic 
lake before it was filled in with sand for construction.

“Tep Vanny should never have been imprisoned in 
the first place,” Minar Pimple, a senior director 
at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“As well as allowing her to resume her activism 
without fear of further reprisals, authorities 
must quash all convictions against her and halt 
any investigations into any other pending charges,” he said.

The royal pardon came just days after a sweeping 
election victory by Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian 
People’s Party, in a poll that rights groups say was neither free nor fair.

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran. 
Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the 
Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of 
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, 
women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, 
climate change and resilience. Visit to see more stories.)

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