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Cambodian activist wants to hear from you after a year in jail

Yorm Bopha was serving a two-year sentence for protesting forced evictions related to a land conflict in the Boeng Kak community, when she was conditionally released on 22 November 2013. Thank you to everyone from around the world who uploaded almost 150 photos calling for her release. She sends her thanks to all those who posted photos, which were delivered to her in prison prior to her release.

A devastated Bopha leaves her appeal hearing 14 June 2013
A devastated Bopha leaves her appeal hearing 14 June 2013

Erika Pineros

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Yorm Bopha has been actively involved in her community's struggle against forced evictions related to a land conflict at Boeng Kak Lake in Phnom Penh. When 13 of her fellow land rights activists were imprisoned in May 2012 after peaceful demonstrations, Bopha became a voice for their freedom. To silence Bopha and the land rights movement, the government sentenced her to three years in prison in December 2012, recently reduced on appeal to two years. She was not due to be freed until September 2014, but the Supreme Court freed her conditionally on 22 November.

Upload your photo telling Yorm Bopha that you support her right to free expression. We will send the photos to her in prison on a regular basis, as well as to the Cambodian authorities letting them know the world expects her to be freed.

During a visit to Yorm Bopha in prison on 21 June, a delegation of IFEX members and partners showed her the first batch of photos. She said the support would help keep her strong, but asked the delegation to spread her message: "Don't forget us."

Click here to download a pdf of the Free Yorm Bopha sign in English and Khmer.


Background

Who is Yorm Bopha?
Yorm Bopha is a 29-year-old mother who has been actively involved in her community's struggle against forced evictions related to a high profile land conflict at Boeng Kak Lake that has raged since 2007 over social and environmental concerns. When land rights activists (the “Boeng Kak 13”) were arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned on 24 May 2012 after a peaceful land rights demonstration, Bopha emerged at the forefront of a campaign for the women's release.

What is she charged with?
Bopha is currently serving a two-year prison sentence after being found guilty on a bogus charge of assault. The charge was upheld on appeal on 14 June 2013 when the original sentence of three years was reduced to two.

"Considering the blatant lack of evidence to convict Bopha, it is widely believed that she was targeted as a result of her activism and outspokenness, especially during the campaign for the release of the Boenk Kak 13," says the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), which has campaigned for her release.

"The authorities began to target Bopha and she was allegedly verbally threatened and intimidated," reports CCHR. "She said that she was told repeatedly by police that she was 'on the blacklist' and that she “would be in trouble soon.”

Why is her case so important?
Bopha's case is significant because dissenting voices in lands rights issues are not tolerated in Cambodia. In March 2013, broadcaster and human rights defender Mam Sonando was released from prison after his sentence was reduced from 20-years in jail for reporting on land rights issues. He had been jailed since July 2012. In April 2012, fixer and environmental activist Chut Wutty was murdered while investigating illegal logging. In October 2012, a deceased military police officer was named as his murderer.

For more information, see the Yorm Bopha Factsheet.
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