A court in Cambodia has sentenced three more activists to a year in prison. The sentences were announced just a day after the three activists were arrested. They were found guilty of disturbing – interfering with – public order on Wednesday. They were charged for a protest they held in support of seven land rights activists on Tuesday. The seven were protesting flooding at a major development in the capital, Phnom Penh.
Trials in Cambodia are rarely completed as fast as these hearings. The accused usually wait weeks or longer before their cases go to a full trial. It is not known why the activists’ cases have been speeded up, or if this is evidence of a government campaign against dissent. Government officials have not commented on the cases.
In other news, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is demanding release of one of its members. Officials arrested Meach Sovannara for his reported involvement in violent protests in July. He once worked as a reporter for Radio Free Asia.
Officers questioned Meach Sovannara for two hours on Tuesday before his arrest. He is accused of taking part in a major protest outside Freedom Park on July 15th.
That protest became violent after demonstrators turned against security officers. The incident led to a political deal between the opposition and the ruling party.
Meach Sovannara faces up to 15 years in prison for taking part in the demonstration and supposedly inciting violence there. His lawyer, however, told the Cambodia Daily newspaper that the opposition has video evidence to prove his innocence. The lawyer says the video shows him calling for protesters to reject violence.
I’m Bob Doughty.
*This report was based on a story from reporters Kong Sothanarith and Heng Reaksmey in Phnom Penh, in cooperation with the VOA Khmer Service. Jeri Watson wrote the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this Story
activists – n. people who campaign for some kind of social change
inciting – v. causing someone to act in an angry, harmful or violent way
avoid – v. to stay away from someone or something
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