A Justice Ministry official yesterday dismissed demands made by Human Rights Watch to release land rights activist Tep Vanny, who has been jailed for two years for inciting violence at a protest in 2016.
In a statement, HRW said that her incarceration was politically motivated.
“Tep Vanny has now spent two years behind bars on fabricated charges and should be released immediately,” claimed Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.
The statement alleged that the prosecution of Ms Vanny and other activists violated freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to a fair trial.
It added that Cambodia is a party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and that it is the job of the government to ensure the country falls in line with its guidelines.
Ms Vanny was arrested in 2016 and was convicted last year for inciting violence at the protest.
A judge sentenced her to 30 months in prison and ordered her to pay $2,250 in compensation to two security guards who were injured during the protest.
During the incident, Ms Vanny and other activists from the Boeng Kak community tried to deliver a petition about their land dispute to Prime Minister Hun Sen. However, violence broke out with security forces and multiple protesters suffered injuries.
The statement by HRW was dismissed as baseless by a Justice Ministry spokesman.
“If they want to help Ms Vanny, then they should follow court procedure and prove that she’s innocent,” said ministry spokesman Chin Malin. “They always raise the issue as politically motivated when we simply implement our laws of our country.”
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior official with rights group Adhoc, said that Ms Vanny and other activists should be freed in order to restore Cambodia’s credibility in the eyes of the international community.
He noted that Cambodia’s human rights reputation is getting worse.
“The government should consider releasing her because she was only expressing her opinion in public,” Mr Sen Karuna said.
“If we look at the charges closely, we can see that there was no clear evidence linking her to the violence that occurred,” he added.