In Cambodia, prison sentences for political opponents

Thirty-one opposition activists were sentenced to prison terms of between six and nine years in a mass trial, indicates the website VOD, while twenty other defendants benefited from a suspended sentence, during the statement of the verdict Tuesday, June 14 at the court of Phnom Penh.

Fights broke out outside the court as police took Cambodian-American human rights lawyer Chan Theary into custody, sentenced to six years in prison.

The court also issued arrest warrants for representatives of the National Rescue Party of Cambodia (CNRP), in particular leaders Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua, who are currently living abroad. They were also sentenced to eight years in prison. A sentence that comes on top of a previous sentence of twenty years in prison for attacks against the state.

An opposition in the crosshairs since 2017

When the verdict was announced, Heng Chan Sothy, Kam Komphear and Tum Bunthorn, all three convicted, raised their arms and shouted: “Bravo to the Candle Party”, in reference to the recent revival of this political formation embodying the opposition since the ban in 2017 of the PSNC. The Candle Party has also won some municipalities in recent municipal elections despite a very tense political climate and intimidation.

Prum Chantha, Kam Komphear’s wife, was dragged on the ground by police as she took part in a protest outside the court, says VOD. Prum Chantha shouted:

“It’s an injustice. Six years ! I’m crying, but that doesn’t mean I’m shocked or down. I cry because I feel like I’m being mistreated. I wonder why Cambodians mistreat their fellow citizens in this way.”

This file dates back to February 2019, recalls VOD, when Sam Rainsy, former leader of the banned opposition party PSNC two years earlier, attempted to return to Cambodia.

Justice accuses the defendants of having participated in the organization of this return and of having gathered people to welcome Sam Rainsy, historical opponent of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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