In a late night decision, King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday granted pardon to four Boeng Kak land activists who were convicted of inciting violence and obstructing public officials.
According to a royal decree, the King pardoned the group’s outspoken leader Tep Vanny, who was in jail for two years over a 2016 protest.
The King also granted pardon to three other land activists including Heng Mom, Bo Chhorvy and Kong Chantha who were convicted of obstructing public officials.
During trial, a judge sentenced Ms Vanny to 30 months in prison and ordered her to pay $2,250 in compensation to two security guards who were injured during her protest.
During the incident, Ms Vanny and other activists from Boeng Kak community tried to deliver a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen when violence broke out and both sides suffered minor injuries.
Following the King’s pardon, Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Kuch Kimlong ordered for Ms Vanny’s immediate release.
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator with the rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that the release of Ms Vanny was long awaited.
“We welcome this information,” Mr Sen Karuna said. “We here in the local and international communities have been asking for her release ever since she was arrested.”
He noted that Ms Mom, Ms Chhorvy and Ms Chantha were released on bail last year. Last night they received their pardon.
Ms Vanny was transported to her home in Boeng Kak community following her release from Prey Sar prison yesterday night.
Song Sreyleap, a land activist, said yesterday on her Facebook page that dozens of villagers in the community were waiting to cheer for Ms Vanny’s arrival.
“I am free now, many thanks. This is Khmers helping Khmers,” Ms Vanny said as she arrived at her home.
Upon her arrival, villagers descended to her side as monks chanted blessings aimed to oust bad spirits.
“No more jail for Boeng Kak villagers,” one villager said. “Freedom for Tep Vanny.”