The partner of slain union leader Chea Vichea has been granted political asylum, friends and government officials said.
Chea Kimny, 34, was given refugee status on Monday at the Bangkok branch of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, Sam Rainsy Party member Om Sara told Radio Free Asia in Thailand.
Chea Kimny, who is eight months pregnant, hopes to resettle in the US.
In an interview last month in Phnom Penh, Chea Kimny said she felt she was in danger after her partner Chea Vichea, an outspoken critic of the government and opposition party member, was gunned down Jan 22 near the Independence Monument.
“After my brother Chea Vichea was killed…it is not good for her to live in Cambodia,” Chea Mony, her brother-in-law, said Tuesday.
Tension has at times been palpable in the capital through the last year, which has witnessed a string of high-profile assassination-style attacks.
Critics have called for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to be held accountable for the killings, and opposition leader Sam Rainsy has alleged that the CPP-led government is responsible for Chea Vichea’s death.
The government has spurned such criticism. Om Yentieng, a Hun Sen adviser and head of the government’s human rights commission, said asylum-seekers like Chea Kimny fabricate stories just to reach the US.
“If the US provides asylum [to one Cambodian], it should prepare to offer asylum to 13 million people,” he said Tuesday, referring to the country’s entire population. One must prove there is legitimate fear of persecution to be granted asylum, according to a UN charter.
Yet as Chea Kimny and others try to flee Cambodia, some are worried about the safety of government critics who remain, including Rong Chhun, who leads the opposition-aligned Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association. Late last month a branch of the US’ AFL-CIO labor group requested in a formal letter that Hun Sen ensure Rong Chhun’s safety.
A friend of Chea Vichea, Rong Chhun said Tuesday that “killers have been able to intimidate and kill people freely. I don’t think Cambodia is a safe place to live.”