by Daniel Mattes, ’12
Daniel has been working since September 2012 as a monitor of the international tribunal for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I had no work at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal yesterday and I decided to join my friend who works for ADHOC — one of the largest and most active domestic human rights NGOs in the country — at the Cambodian Supreme Court for the bail hearing of a land rights activist and political prisoner named Yorm Bopha. She is a member of the activist Boeung Kak community. Boeung Kak was a beautiful lake within the city of Phnom Penh that was filled in with sand after the land was sold to Shukaku Inc., a Cambodian-Chinese corp owned by a ruling party senator in 2007. It is now a desert, and no construction has taken place because the owners are waiting for the land values to rise before ‘developing’ it. The people who had lived on the lake and fished it for their business and sustenance began an immediate movement for reparation, but they were later evicted from the edge of the lake. This has evolved into a very active and rather well-known activist movement led mostly by women. Most recently, in Spring 2012, 13 Boeung Kak women were violently arrested. One of these women, Tep Vanny, is going to Washington DC to receive a human rights defender award from Hillary Clinton on 5 April from the Vital Voices Foundation — founded by Clinton when she was still First Lady — so they have received a good amount of international attention. Tep Vanny is also traveling in Europe now to promote this documentary, the trailer of which I suggest you watch if you want more information on Boeung Kak.
However, the case of Yorm Bopha remains. Continue reading