Twin activist brothers who fled and then returned to Cambodia in the wake of political analyst Kem Ley’s murder say they were briefly detained at the border on Friday morning and forced to thumbprint a document barring their entry into Vietnam.
“We were held and detained until 11 o’clock, when we agreed to thumbprint a document stating that we did not have enough documents and promising that we would temporarily not travel to Vietnam,” Chum Hour said.
Mr. Hour and his brother, Chum Hout, fled Phnom Penh for Bangkok days after the July 10 assassination of Kem Ley, their mentor, out of fear for their safety and were granted a yearlong asylum there by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
But they decided to return to Cambodia a little over a month later, citing a calmer political situation and their desire to continue their activism against the construction of the Don Sahong hydropower dam on the Mekong River in Laos.
On Friday morning, the brothers—who in the past accompanied Kem Ley on visits to draw attention to alleged Vietnamese territorial incursions into Cambodia—said they set out to visit Cambodia’s Paknam pagoda via Vietnam’s better roads.
“There are other ways to visit this pagoda, but I wanted to see it by crossing over the Vietnamese border so that we could see the border situation too,” Mr. Hour said.
Cambodian immigration police in Kandal province’s Ka’am Samnor border checkpoint stopped the twins at about 8 a.m., according to Mr. Hour, confiscating their passports and demanding that they hand over their U.N. asylum cards.
“We have been stopped and detained by Cambodian authorities near the Yuon border,” a Facebook post by the activists said, using an often derogatory word for Vietnam.
The brothers were then taken to the post’s director of international immigration, who they said demanded they thumbprint the document temporarily barring them from entering Vietnam, without offering an explanation or stating how long the ban would last.
“We have a passport and we are not foreigners, but they didn’t listen to us,” Mr. Hour said. “If they didn’t want us to cross the border to Vietnam, they could have just told us to come back to Phnom Penh rather than briefly detaining us and sending us to the immigration police office.”
Immigration officials at the checkpoint could not be reached.
Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun said the border was not under his jurisdiction and referred questions to the Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration, where officials also could not be reached.