International Women’s Day – an opportunity to demand the release of 11 women land activists still in jail.

In the morning of the 8th of March, 2015, approximately 500 people rallied in front of the Ministry of Women’s Affair (MoWA) before marching to Correctional Centre 2 (CC2) in order to demand the release of the 11 women land activists who have been in prison since early November. The group was composed of members from communities affected by land grabbing and forced evictions: Boeung Kak Lake, Borei Keila, SOS, 92, Boeung Chhouk, Railway Communities, Lor Peang, Thmor Kol, and some minority groups from Ratanakiri. On site were also supporters, such as monks, unions, students and representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs). This event was part of the celebration of International Women’s Day 2015.

At around 9:30 am a statement was made, highlighting the violence women experienced in the past year and the lack of repercussions for the perpetrators. This was followed by a peaceful march to Prey Sor prison (CC2) led by women activists from Boeung Kak Lake. The group carried lotus flowers, balloons, religious flags, white flags, UN flags and black T-shirts that read “FREE THE LAND ACTIVISTS”. The fake coffins and banners carried by marchers, which read  “The Women’s Rights have died! The court has died!” symbolised the death of the respect for land rights in Cambodia. At 9:40 am the march was blocked by authorities and riot police at the corner of Veng Sreng Boulevard and Trung Morn Street, on the basis that the march was disrupting the traffic (ironically, this was the basis on which several of the activiats were arrested in November!). After negotiations however, the marching was allowed to resume.

As the sun got hotter, and marchers continued on their way to CC2, around 20 military police of Dangkor district blocked the march and confiscated coffins and white flags, but participants still moved forward until they reached the nearby prison. There, around 100 military police and undercover police were deployed in order to block the march from reaching CC2.  With no other choice, the protesters were forced to stop and wait at an open space near the prison itself. A while later, the black banners and white clothes were burned in a box to pray for the release of the 11.

There was no violence during this event, which finished at about 12.30 pm.

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