After almost nine months in prison for four human rights workers and an election official who are widely seen as being political hostages, the families of the five for the first time made a direct plea on Tuesday to authorities for their release.
Adhoc’s head of monitoring Ny Sokha, his deputies Nay Vanda and Yi Soksan, and senior investigator Lim Mony were charged in May for allegedly bribing the mistress of acting CNRP President Kem Sokha to deny an affair, in a “prostitution” case widely seen as a political attack against the opposition. Ny Chakrya, deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee and a former Adhoc employee, was charged as an accomplice to bribery.
At about 9.30 a.m. on Tuesday, the wives of four of the jailed officials and the daughter of Ms. Mony arrived at the office of the Council of Ministers, where a member of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet accepted their petition, which describes months of financial and emotional hardship.
“Our families’ livelihoods have been seriously affected because there are no breadwinners to earn the income,” it says.
Yem Chantha, Mr. Chakrya’s wife, said the five were victims of a political powerplay.
“Please, both parties, stop using us in your political negotiations,” she said.
Last month, Mr. Sokha was granted a royal pardon for his prison sentence related to the case at the request of Mr. Hun Sen, and it was widely believed that the release of the five jailed officers would follow. But negotiations between the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP appear to have broken down.
Ms. Mony’s 24-year-old daughter, Un Punnary, said the families had not intervened earlier because they were told the officials would be released last year.
“But now it seems very quiet,” she said. “We are really worried that the people may forget about them now.”
From the Council of Ministers, the women continued to the Royal Palace, where they submitted a petition to King Norodom Sihamoni.
NGOs and civil societies continue to call for the prisoners’ release through statements and social media, most recently in a joint message signed by 25 local NGOs and released on Saturday.
In a response on Tuesday, Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap wrote on his Facebook page that the joint statement was “useless.”
“If you have real kindness, find and supply good legal experts to defend those in the following court procedure rather than doing useless things like this,” he said.