Tep Vanny: Fierce Land Rights Activist and Target of Cambodia’s Anti-Activist Agenda
By Laura Galeano, Program Assistant, Individuals at Risk, Amnesty International USA
Tep Vanny, a prominent Cambodian land rights activist, human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, has been jailed since August 16, 2016 — that means she has been imprisoned for over two years.
Tep Vanny is known most prominently for her work surrounding the housing community in what used to be the Boeung Kak Lake area in central Phnom Penh. For over ten years, Tep Vanny has struggled to keep intact this community that has been repeatedly torn down to make room for private tourist developments. With the current political climate in Cambodia and the hostile environment surrounding land rights activists, Tep Vanny is a prime target for government backlash against her work.
Arrested during a peaceful protest calling for the release of five imprisoned human rights defenders who were arrested in April 2016, Tep Vanny continued to be kept in jail and in and out of court proceedings related to previous arrests. The Cambodian government finally charged Tep Vanny with “insult (of a public official)” and “obstruction of a public official with aggravating circumstances”. These charges, coupled with the dredging up of past charges, leave Tep Vanny in a perpetual battle of fighting for her release.
Following the decision of the courts to uphold Tep Vanny’s sentence and the one year anniversary of her most recent jail sentence, Amnesty International, in a joint statement with several other international organizations, have called for “convictions to be overturned, for all ongoing politically motivated and unsubstantiated charges against her to be dropped, and for her immediate release from prison.” It is clear that Tep Vanny is being used as an example to deter other land rights activists from continuing their fight to ensure a more just Cambodian society.
“It is clear that the authorities are using the courts to lock me
up, silence my freedom of expression and break my spirit”
Tep Vanny should be allowed to continue her work in land rights advocacy; on a more personal level, she should be allowed to see her family and friends more regularly. Tep Vanny is a mother of two and has been away from her children for far too long.
Please sign this petition asking the Cambodian government to stop targeting land rights activists and human rights defenders and allow for the unconditional release of Tep Vanny from prison.
If you have a few extra minutes, please write, call, email and fax the Cambodian Ambassador, Chum Bun Rong, and ask him to tell the Cambodian authorities to release Tep Vanny immediately and unconditionally:
H.E. Chum Bun Rong
The Royal Embassy of Cambodia in Washington, DC
4530 16th Street. NW
Washington, DC 20011
Salutation: Dear Ambassador