Free Tep Vanny, stop the persecution of people fighting for right to land

Land activist Tep Vanny is led into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for sentencing in February 2017. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Press Statement

On the second anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of ‘Boeung Kak 13’ activist Tep Vanny, PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) supports the call of our fellow land and human rights advocates in Cambodia for her immediate and unconditional release and for the dropping of all charges against her. (http://panap.net/2017/08/judicial-harassment-vs-land-activists-mekong-region-rise/)

Tep Vanny’s dedication and commitment in resisting and seeking justice for the displacement of her community is admirable and remains a source of inspiration not only to the Cambodian people experiencing dispossession but also the poor and marginalized people asserting their right to land and demanding social justice in the Asia Pacific region and elsewhere.

Together with fellow ‘Boeung Kak 13’ activists, Tep Vanny has been continuously subjected to various forms of harassment – including repeated arrests and multiple charges – for opposing a real estate development project in the Boeung Kak Lake in Phnom Penh. Initiated by an influential politician and businessman, the project resulted in the displacement of more than 4,000 people living around the now gone lake and the loss of livelihood of many others.

Her current detention stemmed from a conviction of “insulting a public official” with a sentence of six-day imprisonment in August 2016. But government revived dormant charges against her in relation to a 2013 protest rally and was sentenced for two and a half years in jail and about US$3,500 in fine.

The continuing harassment of Tep Vanny and the legal persecution of land rights activists in Cambodia are but a reflection of the alarming human rights situation in the country. We ask the Cambodian government to urgently address allegations of resorting to crackdown and criminalization of dissent to silence and intimidate people and communities only seeking remedy for the everyday injustice they experience. We likewise encourage the government to rethink its policies that deprive people of their basic rights such as to land, livelihood, and way of life and result in the general discontent among the poor and marginalized.

Finally, we express our solidarity with the peoples and communities resisting land and resource grabbing and dispossession in Cambodia and around the world, and support to their continuing fight for land and human rights. ###

Reference: Arnold Padilla, Programme Coordinator (nolandnolife@panap.net)

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