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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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