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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid