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Thirteen women land activists arrested

Thirteen women who have led protests against land evictions at Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak Lake were hastily sentenced to at least a year in jail last week in the latest in a string of free expression crackdowns, report the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and ARTICLE 19.

The 13 women, many of whom had been harassed previously because of their activism, were attempting to rebuild homes on Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak Lake, where thousands of families have been forcibly evicted since 2008 to make way for high rise buildings and shopping centres, say the members. According to CCHR, they were arrested on 22 May and then convicted just two days later.

Two more Boeung Kak representatives were arrested during demonstrations against the court sentencing of the 13, report the members.

Watch a video of the arrests below:

Many more protesting the arrests were attacked by police and security guards armed with hammers and other tools, says CCHR. Three activists were beaten into unconsciousness, and well-known activist and monk Loun Savath was forced into an unmarked car, barricaded in a temple and might even have been defrocked, says CCHR.

ARTICLE 19 says that the government's development plans are "planned and executed without genuine consultation with affected communities," which prevents them from challenging the evictions earlier.

"It is the duty of the Cambodian government to protect its most vulnerable groups, but in stark contrast, the government is instead robbing its citizens of their homes and subsequently punishing them for voicing their concerns," said ARTICLE 19.

This large-scale arrest and conviction follows the death of a 14-year-old girl who was shot and killed during an eviction protest last week, reports ARTICLE 19.

According to the group, Cambodia's human rights situation is backsliding, with at least eight incidents of violence directed towards activists in the past five months - including the gunning down of leading environmental activist Chut Wutty last month during a confrontation with military police.

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