Cambodia: Petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Regarding the Arbitrary Detention of Yorm Bopha | Report

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This Petition requests the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to render an Opinion that the arrest and detention of Ms. Yorm Bopha, amounts to arbitrary detention.

Ms. Yorm Bopha is a human rights defender. She is a resident of  the Boeung Kak Lake community which, since 2007, has been in conflict over land with Shukaku Inc., a powerful company with strong connections to senior government officials. Shukaku Inc. is owned by Mr. Lao Meng Khin, an influential businessman and member of the Senate from the ruling party, the Cambodia Peoples’ Party (CPP). In 2007, Phnom Penh municipality leased a 133-hectare area of Boeung Kak Lake to Shukaku Inc. for development purposes. The development plan affected 4,252 families residing in the Boeung Kak Lake community. In July 2010, the government issued sub-decree No. 71 dated 20 July 2010 to allow the company to develop 126.85 hectares of land in the Boeung Kak Lake community. This development on the Boeung Kak Lake community land provided for no proper compensation to the affected families; most families were to receive US $8,000 each to vacate the land. Members of the Boeung Kak Lake community found this solution unfair and started demanding acceptable solutions through protests, advocacy and negotiations with company representatives and through letters to municipal officials and other government institutions to seek their intervention. The Boeung Kak Lake community has no intention to oppose the development plan; rather, they demand a proper solution for the community. The main purpose of ongoing protests by the community is to get justice and protect their houses. Due to strong community advocacy, the government issued a new sub-decree No. 183 dated 11 August 2011 to reserve 12.44 hectares of the leased land for the Boeung Kak Lake community. Since receiving this decree, the Phnom Penh municipality has failed or refused to set a land boundary for the Boeung Kak Lake community, yet they cooperated with the company to create obstacles and put pressure on 794 families to accept inappropriate solutions. For example, they did not recognize approximately 100 families within the scope of the 12.44 hectares set aside for the community. They also used the court system to bring groundless charges against them. The Phnom Penh municipality has been unable or unwilling to seek a satisfactory solution to this land issue. Moreover, the local authority always supports the company and allows it to do whatever they want on that land, such as putting sand into the community, destroying houses or making threats. The company and Phnom Penh municipality have used prosecutions as a tool to put pressure on the community to suppress its demands. So far there have been 11 criminal cases against Boeung Kak Lake community members. During peaceful protests, Boeung Kak Lake community representatives including Ms. Tep Vanny, Ms. Heng Mom, Ms. Kong Chantha, Ms. Bo Chorvy and other women were intimidated, mistreated and arrested and detained several times. On 22 May 2012, 13 Boeung Kak Lake women were arrested and detained in prison. Yorm Bopha campaigned for the release of the 13 women. As a result of her advocacy, she was arrested, prosecuted on fabricated charges and convicted and sentenced in unfair court proceedings.

This Petition respectfully requests that the Working Group render an Opinion requesting the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia to terminate Yorm Bopha’s arbitrary detention and bring the situation into conformity with the principles set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.