The Appeals Court on Friday denied bail to Rong Chhun, the jailed president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, following a hearing at which the presiding judges claimed that freeing the suspect could jeopardize the court investigation.
Judge Um Sarith rejected a promise by Rong Chhun that he would not flee the country if given temporary release before the trial hearing and would be spending his time caring for his ailing mother who lives in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district, said his lawyer Te Chamnan.
Te Chamnan described the decision to deny bail as unjust and said he plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“By law, Rong Chhun could be allowed released on bail because his 82-years-old mother is ailing and his brother has firmly guaranteed to the court that he will not run away,” Te Chamnan said.
As he was bustled from the courtroom to a waiting vehicle by prison officers and police, Rong Chhun shouted to reporters: “This decision of the Appeals Court is very unjust to me. [The Constitution] guarantees freedom of expression.”
Rong Chhun was jailed under pre-trial detention on Oct 15 following a defamation case lodged by Prime Minister Hun Sen over alleged statements related to the supplementary border treaty with Vietnam that was signed into force by King Norodom Sihamoni on Wednesday.
The lawsuit also named three others accused of defaming Hun Sen: Ear Channa, deputy secretary-general of the Student Movement for Democracy, Men Nath, president of the Independent Civil Servants Association, and Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia. All three have fled the country fearing arrest and imprisonment.
Government lawyer Suong Chanthan welcomed the continued detention of Rong Chhun, saying that the government had asked the Appeals Court to keep the teachers’ association president in prison.
“I am satisfied with the decision, because this was a proposal from the government,” he said.