Update: We have received word that the Venerable has been released and was not defrocked. More information soon. The fastest way to get updates on this developing situation is to follow me on Twitter: @WitnessRyan
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Cambodian Government Attempts to Silence the Resistance to Forced Evictions
Today the Venerable Luon Sovath, a Buddhist monk and human rights advocate, was apprehended by police while taking photos of a protest supporting 13 women from the Boeung Kak Lake community.
The women face charges after peacefully demonstrating on the land were their homes once stood. Venerable Sovath is being held at a pagoda in Phnom Penh and is being prevented from contacting others.
We have reported previously about the growing threats of arrest and defrocking to the Venerable and he has publicly responded to these threats- but this is the furthest the authorities have gone to silence him. To be defrocked would mean the Venerable would not be allowed to practice his functions as a monk and would be likely barred from living in any religious house.
The human rights organization LICADHO captured the dramatic footage of the Venerable being forced into a waiting vehicle:
The Venerable is widely recognized for his use of video to support communities facing forced evictions and land grabbing across Cambodia. He is one of three nominated for the prestigious Martin Ennals Award on behalf of 10 major international human rights organizations. The Venerable Sovath and WITNESS partner LICADHO were recognized by WITNESS at the 2010 Video For Change Gala.
Women Activists of Boeung Kak Lake Sentenced to Prison
Later today the 13 women residents of the Boeung Kak Lake community were sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. A 72 year old woman had 1.5 years of the sentence suspended and another five others had six months of their sentence suspended. Other 7 are facing full 2.5 years. The court denied the accused the right to call witness. All were sent to prison.
Another two women, who were witness to the 22 May arrests, themselves were arrested outside the courthouse. Their trial started right after the trial of 13 women was done. These two women do not have lawyers and reportedly are not aware of the charges against them.
Earlier this week – LICADHO and allies called for the release of the 13 women and and produced a video of the 22 May protest and how the 13 women were chased down by authorities. The women were held without charge for 48 hours.
Watch LICADHO’s video The Impact of “Development” and Forced Evictions on Women in Cambodia which profiles the women of the Boeung Kak Lake community to learn more about how forced evictions affect women and how they have led the resistance.