News / Asia

Cambodia's Supreme Court Orders Land Activist Freed on Bail

Yorm Bopha, right, a Boeung Kak lake villager, enters a court room for her hearing at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.
Yorm Bopha, right, a Boeung Kak lake villager, enters a court room for her hearing at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
Cambodia’s Supreme Court ordered the release of a land rights activist on Friday who has spent more than a year in jail on what rights groups claim are trumped-up charges. However, despite the release, the ruling from the five-judge bench disappointed many by sending the case back to a lower court for further investigation.
 
Yorm Bopha, a 30-year old mother of one, is a prominent member of a group of residents of an area in the capital known as Boeung Kak lake, where in recent years thousands of families have been evicted as part of an opaque land deal.
 
Her case has garnered attention at home and abroad, especially after rights group Amnesty International named her a prisoner of conscience, and called on its members to take action. Thousands wrote or emailed on her behalf.
 
On Friday, hopes were high among hundreds of Yorm Bopha’s assembled supporters, including many Buddhist monks, that the judiciary would free her unconditionally.
 
Yorm Bopha was confident as well. Speaking during a recess before the Supreme Court handed down its decision, she thanked people inside and outside Cambodia for their efforts.
 
Bopha said she was grateful for everyone's support, and was hopeful the court would "deliver justice" for her.
 
In the event, the Supreme Court ordered her released on bail, and instructed a lower court to revisit her case. It was much less than she and her supporters had hoped for.
 
Minutes later, Yorm Bopha told the media of her disappointment.
 
Bopha said she felt despondent that the case is being returned to the Appeal Court.  She said this is being done to "shackle" her, and shows that authorities do not want her to file another complaint.
 
A municipal court sentenced Yorm Bopha to three years in jail last December for her alleged involvement in an attack on two men. Earlier this year, the Appeal Court reduced that term to two years. On Friday, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Appeal Court and instructed it to examine all of the evidence.
 
Rights groups say the problem is that no evidence has ever been presented indicating that Yorm Bopha was involved in the case.
 
Outside the court, Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher, Rupert Abbott, said the verdict has generated mixed feelings.
 
“Of course we’re pleased that she’s released - I think it shows that activism works. Her community’s been very active, day in, day out, and they’ve had some support from others, including Amnesty International members. We’re really pleased that she’s released. But we’re disappointed because the saga’s still continuing. The case has been sent back to the Appeal Court. She’s only released effectively on bail so it’s hanging over her. It’s another attempt to stop her activism and to silence her. So we’re concerned about that,” said Abbott.
 
Abbott said that he hoped the lower court - when it eventually looks into the case - would accept that there is no evidence against her.
 
“Let’s hope that her release today is a positive sign. Let’s hope that it symbolizes a change in attitude from the authorities - the government’s promised reforms here. Let’s hope her release today shows that this trend - harassing, threatening, attacking, imprisoning human rights defenders - let’s hope it’s coming to an end,” continued Abbott.
 
After the hearing on Friday, dozens of Yorm Bopha’s supporters followed her back to the prison to await her release, which will take place once officials have processed the necessary paperwork. She is expected to leave jail Friday.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More