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PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA

2012 has probably been one of the toughest years for Human Rights defenders in Cambodia. The country has seen a dramatic increase on HR abuses counting amongst others, a high number of violent forced evictions and protests, and the growing prosecution of human rights activists across the country.

Amongst the highly publicized incidents this year, Cambodia has seen the killings of an environmental activist, a journalist working on illegal loggings; a 14 year-old girl shot during a forced eviction, 15 land-rights activist women sent to jail without a proper trial – two of which are still waiting for a trial months after their arrest; and the increasing judicial harassment of some of the most respected human rights activists –Venerable Loun Savath amongst them.

In a paradoxical week, on Monday Oct. 1, 2012, Mam Sonando, the 71 year-old journalist and owner of Beehive radio station was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of insurrection. A day later, Venerable Loun Savath was awarded the Martin Ennals Award, one of most respected recognitions a Human Rights Defender can be granted. Not long after, it was announced Tep Vanny – one of the most prominent Boeung Kak demonstrators – will receive in Washington D.C. the 2013 Global Leadership Award for her work to ‘strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity, and protect human rights’.

Despite huge attention from the international community to both of these cases, the tension keeps growing inside the country. Protests against Human Rights issues seem to be on the raise, as well as the criticism to the government by local and international NGOs. In the meanwhile, the government keeps fighting back the allegations.

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A man from the community watches the excavators as they demolish the houses. Some families hardly had any time to pack their belongings. ©Erika Pineros 2011

 

Riot police beat Soung Sorphoan a man from the opposition party SRP who encouraged residents to fight back and stop the eviction. ©Erika Pineros 2011

 

Soung Sorphoan, a man from the opposition party SRP lays on the ground unconscious after been beaten by the police. ©Erika Pineros 2011

 

 

Venerable Loun Savath “The Multimedia Monk” films at Phnom Bat relocation site, where over 300 families have been forcefully relocated after being evicted from Borei Keila in Phnom Penh. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

Venerable Loun Savath “The Multimedia Monk” talks to villagers at Phnom Bat relocation site. Over 300 families have been forcefully relocated after being evicted from Borei Keila in Phnom Penh. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

Tep Vanny, who will receive in Washington D.C. the 2013 Global Leadership Award for her work to ‘strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity, and protect human rights’, cleans a poster of Hillary Clinton in her house in Phnom Penh. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

Tep Vanny, who will receive in Washington D.C. the 2013 Global Leadership Award for her work to ‘strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity, and protect human rights’, protests against Bopha’s imprisonment in front of the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

A supporter holds a poster while guarding the krama with the 140,489 signatures collected demanding Mam Sonando’s release. ©Erika Pineros 2012

Boeung Kak community residents joined Mam Sonando’s supporters in front of the Municipal Court in Phnom Penh in support of the 71 year-old journalist, who got sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of insurrection. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

Demonstrators confront the police after hearing Sonando’s 20 year sentence. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

Huon Pannary, secretary-general of Sonando’s Association of Democrats delivers a Cambodian krama as petition with the 140,489 signatures collected demanding Mam Sonando’s release to the USA embassy. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

 

A child sleeps on his mother’s arms during a prayer in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The woman holds the krama with the 140,489 signatures collected demanding Mam Sonando’s immediate release. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

Yorm Bopha’s son and husband face a police officer while waiting on news from the selected community representatives who delivered a petition to the Council of Ministers’ Spokesperson on behalf of the arrested women. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

Mu Sochua, a prominent leader from the opposition party SRP during a confrontation with the police on the first day of Sonando’s trial at the Municipal Court in Phnom Penh. © Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

A protestor holds lotus flowers and a sign in front of the police in support of Yorm Bopha and Toem Sakmony who were arrested earlier this week in Phnom Penh. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

 

©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

 

 

©Erika Pineros 2012

 

Without much direction, Demonstrators stop ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

Yorm Bopha and Toem Sakmony arrive at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh after over 2 months in detention. © Erika Pineros 2012

 

Nget Khun, 72, a Boeung Kak protester stands in front of the police barricade in support of imprisoned Bopha and Sakmony near the Appeals Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. © Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

Tep Vanny, one of the most prominent Boeung Kak protesters, shouts demanding Bopha and Sakmony’s release after over 2 months of their detention. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. © Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

 

Supporters of Bopha and Sakmony clash with the police while waiting on the court’s decision. The two women have been under pre-trial detention for over two months. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

Yorm Bopha’s husband at a protest in front of the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh. Yorn Bopha and Toem Sakmony have been under pre-trial detention for over two months. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

A woman lays on the road in tears as she learns the Bopha’s and Sakmony’s bail have been denied by the court Phnom Penh. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

An impressive display of riot police was used to disperse the peaceful protest in front of the U.S embassy. ©Erika Pineros 2012

 

 

 

 

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