CNRP Not Allowed to Meet With Elected Officials in Prison

Ten opposition lawmakers were barred from meeting three elected officials at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison on Tuesday, with prisons authorities saying they should have sought permission from the courts because crim­inal cases against each remain open.

A spokesman for the court, however, said no such permission was needed and that such visits did not interfere with court procedures.

CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang speaks to reporters outside Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang speaks to reporters outside Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

More than 20 CPP critics—many of them opposition officials and activists—have been jailed over the past year, and CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang and his group were hoping to meet all the opposition figures to check on their health and living situations.

They were allowed inside to meet with 15 party members and acti­vists, spending more than an hour talking with them in a meeting room, but were not allowed to in­spect their cells, Mr. Chhay Eang said.

They were also not allowed to see Senator Hong Sok Hour, law­maker Um Sam An or Seang Chet, a commune councillor from Kom­pong Cham province, who are all still awaiting trial, with authorities issuing a letter saying that the visits could affect the judicial process.

“The detainees Hong Sok Hour, Um Sam An and Seang Chet are still under the procedures of court questioning, so permission should be sought from the court authorities,” said the letter, signed on Monday by Interior Ministry pris­on department chief Chan Kim Seng.

After leaving the prison, Mr. Chhay Eang said that the prisoners they did meet—including Meach Sovannara, a U.S. citizen suing the Cambodian government in a U.S. court for false imprisonment over his 20-year sentence for “insurrection”—were mostly in good health.

The opposition party would nevertheless send a request to the In­terior Ministry to make a doctor available to its imprisoned members and to create a smoke-free area for them to live in, Mr. Chhay Eang said. He said the opposition figures had been separated from each other inside the prison.

“As we know, most of them are living in different places, and those already sentenced are staying with robbers and drug de­tainees,” he said.

He added that it was unreasonable for authorities to reject the CNRP’s request to meet with par­ty officials whose trials are still ongoing, and that politics was likely at play.

“I don’t understand what the rule is, but we are only visiting them. Why is it so complicated?” he said.

Ly Sophanna, a municipal court spokesman, said the court would not have objected to the delegation visiting the prisoners but that decisions about grant­ing access to prisoners were up to prison officials.

“To visit, they must have permission from the prison,” he said, adding that the court could only offer advice to prison officials on specific cases.

“A visit would not affect court procedures,” he added.

Nuth Savna, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s prisons de­part­ment, could not be reached.

[email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.