Security personnel guard the Supreme Court after its hearing to dissolve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 16, 2017.

© 2017 AP Photo

(New York) – Cambodian authorities should immediately cease harassing former opposition party members in the courts, Human Rights Watch said today. The Battambang prosecutor Ky Bunnara has summoned 25 former officials of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to appear for questioning before the Battambang provincial court over two weeks beginning on May 8, 2019.

The summonses allege that the former opposition party officials violated the Supreme Court ruling that dissolved the party in November 2017. Many former opposition members have continued to exercise their right to free expression to criticize Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on social media.

“The Cambodian government continues to harass numerous opposition officials in the courts and to threaten them with prison time long after the main opposition party was unjustifiably disbanded,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The government should immediately end the political harassment campaign against the CNRP and drop this latest batch of absurd court cases.”

A total of 18 former local CNRP elected officials – commune chiefs, provincial council members, district council members, and municipality council members – received summonses, along with CNRP provincial and district chiefs, and members. The full list appears below.

Hun Sen’s persecution of the opposition shows he is once again testing how far he can take his crackdown on independent and critical voices.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

On May 2, a Phnom Penh court convicted in absentia Sam Rainsy, the former party leader and acting head of the exiled CNRP, of lese majeste (insulting the monarchy, under article 437 bis of Cambodia’s Criminal Code) and of “inciting military personnel to disobedience” and “the demoralization of the army” (under articles 471 and 472). The court sentenced him to eight years in prison and a fine of 20 million riels (US$4,900). Sam Rainsy fled Cambodia in November 2015 when facing arrest in relation to other politically motivated charges.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has also issued arrest warrants for eight leading members of the CNRP in exile – Sam Rainsy, Mu Sochua, Ou Chanrith, Eng Chhai Eang, Men Sothavarin, Long Ry, Tob Van Chan, and Ho Vann. The charges against them are conspiring to commit treason and incitement to commit a felony. All eight leaders left Cambodia ahead of the July 2018 election after a widespread crackdown on the political opposition and nongovernmental groups.

In January 2019, Hun Sen threatened the lives of opposition members who endorsed the withdrawal of trade preferences under the European Union’s “Everything But Arms” system, which provides tariff-free access for goods to the EU market.

The CNRP leader, Kem Sokha, has been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty for over 18 months. While the government released Sokha from jail in September 2018, he remains under judicial supervision in highly restrictive conditions that amount to house arrest. The authorities have provided no evidence that he has committed any recognizable offense.

Under Cambodian law, the investigating judge has an obligation to determine whether to release a detained person after a maximum of 18 months, or to charge the person and bring them to trial. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly pressed the Cambodian government to immediately and unconditionally release Kem Sokha.

In November 2017, the ruling party-controlled Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 party members from political activity for five years. The court action was in advance of national elections in which the opposition party was expected to challenge the ruling party’s longtime rule. On July 29, 2018, elections were held without a major opposition party, and the CPP won all the seats in the National Assembly, effectively making Cambodia a one-party state.

“Hun Sen’s persecution of the opposition shows he is once again testing how far he can take his crackdown on independent and critical voices in Cambodia,” Adams said. “The European Union and other governments that are reviewing trade preferences and considering targeted sanctions because of Cambodian government abuses should make clear they are serious about protecting human rights.”

List of Individuals Who Received Summons
 
Former Elected CNRP Officials
  1. Sin Chanpeou Rozeth, former CNRP Ou Char commune chief, summoned to appear on May 9, at 8 a.m.
  2. Mok Ra, former CNRP Tuol Ta Ek commune chief, summoned to appear on May 9, at 8 a.m.
  3. Khoun Chamran, former CNRP Chomkar Somraong commune chief, summoned to appear on May 9, at 8 a.m.
  4. Kan Bunpheng, former CNRP Prek Preah Sdach commune chief, summoned to appear on May 9, at 8 a.m.
  5. Ruen Kem, former CNRP Kdol Doun Teav commune chief, summoned to appear on May 8, at 8 a.m.
  6. Phan Ret, former CNRP Kdol Doun Teav commune council member, summoned to appear on May 8, at 2 p.m.
  7. Dim Saroeun, former SRP Battambang provincial council member, summoned to appear on May 9, at 2 p.m.
  8. Pouk Lyhak, former SRP Battambang provincial council member, summoned to appear on May 16, at 2 p.m.
  9. Sok Sopheak, former CNRP Preaek Norint commune chief, summoned to appear on May 21, at 8 a.m.
  10. Sun Chomrienun, former CNRP Peam Aek commune chief, summoned to appear on May 21, at 8 a.m.
  11. Sang Bunmao, former CNRP Svay Por commune council member, summoned to appear on May 8, at 2 p.m.
  12. Horm Heam, former SRP Sangkae district council member, summoned to appear on May 16, at 8 a.m.
  13. Yom Dong, former SRP Battambang municipality council member, summoned to appear on May 9, at 2 p.m.
  14. Vi Von, former SRP Sangkae district council member, summoned to appear on May 17, at 8 a.m.
  15. Ton Samorn, former CNRP Wat Kor commune chief, summoned to appear on May 9, at 8 a.m.
  16. Peuk Lom, former CNRP Samrong commune chief, summoned to appear on May 21, at 9 a.m.
  17. Ny Romduol, former CNRP Preaek Luong commune chief, summoned to appear on May 21, 2 p.m.
  18. Phov Tang, former SRP Kamrieng district council member, summoned to appear on May 17, 2 p.m.
 
Former CNRP Party Officials
  1. Kong Bunheang, former CNRP Battambang provincial party member, summoned to appear on May 16, at 8 a.m.
  2. Sem Lao, former CNRP Sampov Lun district party member, summoned to appear on May 16, at 2 p.m.
  3. Sen San, former CNRP Sampov Lun district party member, summoned to appear on May 16, at 2 p.m.
  4. Thong Saroeun, former CNRP Koas Krala district party chief, summoned to appear on May 16, at 8 a.m.
  5. Chea Cheav, former CNRP Battambang provincial chief, summoned to appear on May 16, at 8 a.m.
  6. Kruy Kimsang, former CNRP Kamrieng district party chief, summoned to appear on May 17, at 8 a.m.
  7. Mang Chhun, former CNRP Koas Krala district party deputy chief, May 17, at 2 p.m.