Tieng Narith, the university lecturer sentenced to two and a half years in jail last month for teaching from his own anti-government textbook, may qualify as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, the London-based rights group said.
An initial assessment of the case indicates that Tieng Narith “does appear to be a prisoner of conscience, sentenced to imprisonment for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” Janice Beanland of the NGO’s Southeast Asia team wrote in an e-mail Friday.
The textbook by Tieng Narith, who is believed to suffer from mental health problems, links government officials to acts of political violence. Om Yentieng, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s human rights adviser, said the NGO should not concern itself with the case. “Amnesty International does not know Cambodia’s misery,” he said.
In recent years, Amnesty campaigned for the release of several Cambodians it deemed prisoners of conscience, including SRP parliamentarian Cheam Channy, convicted of creating an illegal armed force in 2005 and later released, and several activists jailed in 2005 over criticism of the government’s border policy. The activists were released in early 2006.