Tep Vanny is Cambodia’s most famous activist and the leader of the women of Boeung Kak Lake, who stormed the country after their forced eviction from the lake. Since then, Tep Vanny has received several international awards for her activism and has been jailed several times, but has never given up her fight for justice. She has become a symbol of the human rights movement in Cambodia, a country where freedom of speech is constantly being curtailed by the ruling party.
On 15 August 2016, she was arrested during a protest calling for the release of five fellow human rights defenders (known as the “Freethe5KH”). One week later, she was convicted on charges of “insult to a public official” and sentenced to six days in prison. However, instead of releasing her, authorities subsequently reactivated charges that had been brought against her in 2013 but never followed up on; in September 2016 she was sentenced to six months in prison, and in February 2017, to an additional 30 months in jail and fined USD3,500. Multiple appeals for her release have been denied.
"Tep Vanny’s only “crime” is defending human rights. Her detention is arbitrary and illegal and sadly shows how the Cambodian authorities have turned the courts into tools of repression. Her trial was deeply flawed as no credible evidence was presented against her... This is a clear attempt by the Cambodian authorities to silence one of the country’s most prominent activists – conveniently for the government, they have also assured that Tep Vanny will be kept in prison during next year’s general election".
Josef Roy Benedict. Former Deputy Director - Campaigns. Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Office Amnesty International
Vanny was finally released from prison in August 2018 after receiving a royal pardon from Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni on request of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Photography: © Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved