Cambodia, land grabbing, land activist, Yorm Bopha, Borin Noun

It was on a protest on Septembre 2012 in Cambodia.

30-year-old Yorm Bopha was on the front line. Behind her, some 300 protesters were voicing their anger over the recent land grabs in Cambodia.

That’s where Yorm Bopha was arrested by the riot police.

But today she’s free... after the Supreme Court released her from prison.

As a mother of one, Yorm Bopha feels happy for the support until she was freed.

“I want to thank my supporters, human rights activists, our village people and international activists. I will not forget this and thank you so much.”

Yorm Bopha is one of the 13 Boeung Kak women activists who have been fighting for land rights.

In recent years, thousands of families have been evicted from the former Boeung Kak Lake since 2007 to make way for condominiums and other complexes.

Rights group Amnesty International named her a prisoner of conscience and called on its members to take actions.

“I’m happy with my release. And I will fight against land eviction in Cambodia. I will join all activities and fight for cases of land grabbing across the country even though that would bring me back to jail. I will fight until I die. That’s my determination.”

Human rights groups have long said the charges against Yorm Bopha are politically motivated.

And they say the charges against her were false and that she had been targeted because of her activism.

Yet despite the lack of evidence, in June this year, Cambodia’s Appeal Court upheld her conviction.

The Supreme Court released her on November this year... but it was on bail and only temporary.

Her case is sent back to the Appeal Court and she will face a retrial.

Chan Savat from ADHOC human rights group is worried that Bopha might be sent to jail again.

“It is easy to arrest her again because it is not formal release. If she’s not guilty, then the Supreme Court should not transform her case to the Appeal Court. We are worried about her. Appeal Court can arrest her any time. So it is not good luck for her.”

Outside the court, the crowd erupted with a mixture of jubilation and anger on hearing the decision.

Tep Vanny, leader of the Boeung Kak group, praised her colleague for her devotion to the community.

“Her presence can bring new hope for our community in fighting again land eviction in our country.”

Bopha’s mother 60-year-old Sabo Soth prays for her daughter.

“I want this court to decide to drop the case against her formally.”

Yorm Bopha is still waiting for the retrial process.

But after spending more than 400 days behind bars, she’s not worried about her life anymore.

“I would like to send my message to the government to stop evicting people with force, using violence against women’s rights. They have to respect human rights.”

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