The ever-evolving “Black Monday” campaign, branded illegal by the government and abandoned by the human rights groups that launched it, continued on Monday in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community.
About 40 women wearing black T-shirts propped up five posters with various images of Tep Vanny, the Boeng Kak land activist imprisoned since August.
A woman lights candles during a vigil to mark “Black Monday” on Monday in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily) Ms. Vanny was a prominent leader of the Black Monday campaign, which began in May with demonstrations calling for the release of four officers from rights group Adhoc and an election official imprisoned for allegedly bribing a mistress of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha.
However, the campaign has since broadened to take on the social justice issues of the day, including the July murder of political analyst Kem Ley. The Boeng Kak activists on Monday evening focused their protest on Ms. Vanny’s imprisonment.
“We are demanding for everyone [to be released] because they face injustice from the court,” activist Sung Sreyleap said. “But Tep Vanny was arrested for her involvement in Black Monday protests.”
“Her case is not different from the NGO officials,” she added.
Last week marked the 200th day in detention for the five human rights defenders, said a statement accompanying a legal analysis of their case released on Monday by 11 local rights organizations.
Boeng Kak activist Tep Vanny is led away after a hearing at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh last week. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily) The analysis concludes that the continued detention of the five “is both arbitrary and unlawful under Cambodian domestic law and international human rights law, which demand that pre-trial detention be imposed only as a last resort,” the statement said.
“As a result, their fair trial rights and right to liberty have been compromised.”
Ms. Vanny was denied bail on Thursday by the Court of Appeal in relation to charges of intentional violence over a protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh residence in March 2013, which was led by Ms. Vanny and other activists.
Another Boeng Kak activist, Oum Sakhorn, said the group was continuing to hold protests—albeit small ones in their community—knowing that Ms. Vanny would not have backed down.
“If Tep Vanny was here, she could do more. She is strong and can face the authorities. But please don’t confuse that with us being weak,” Ms. Sakhorn said.
“It’s more effective when we march from the community to the public. But the authorities always block us,” she said.
“We won’t stop. Why would we stop? She’s our representative and she’s been arrested.”
odom@cambodiadaily.com, surrusco@cambodiadaily.com
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