Adhoc president Thun Saray, who left the country after four officers from the human rights group were jailed in a case involving deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha, was among 16 rights workers lauded Thursday by the Franco-German Council of Ministers.
Mr. Saray collected the award, the council’s first annual Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, at a ceremony in Berlin.
The award is a testament to the difficult work Adhoc has been doing in Cambodia, said Sam Chankea, the NGO’s spokesman. “This is the pride of Adhoc, which has worked hard for a long time to help the people and defend human rights in Cambodia,” he said.
Other honorees included Wang Qiaoling, who has been fighting to find her husband, Li Heping, a Chinese human rights lawyer who has been detained for more than a year; Brazilian Maria da Penha, who campaigns against domestic violence; and Sunitha Krishnan, who fights human trafficking and forced prostitution in India.
“All these individuals have something in common: wherever they come from, whatever they have been through, they are dedicating their lives to others,” the two foreign ministers, Jean-Marc Ayrault of France and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, said in an op-ed released to the media.
Mr. Saray has not been seen in Cambodia for many months. He was a no-show at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on October 24 when he was called to appear for questioning in the case in which four of his staff members face bribery charges over a sex scandal involving Mr. Sokha.
The award shines a spotlight on their continued detention, said Mr. Chankea, the group’s spokesman.
“I request the government’s help to intervene, to ask the court to drop the charges,” he said. “They worked hard to do the work of defending human rights,” he said.