Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said human rights workers who are hiding alleged terrorists will be arrested, a day after NGO officials criticized the government’s handling of its investigation into the Cambodian Freedom Fighters.
“The rights workers must not let terrorists hide under their logo,” Hun Sen said in Pursat province, though he did not offer evidence of rights groups sheltering suspects.
“You have no right to support terrorism. The government knows what it must do. Even if you come from the moon, you will be arrested.”
Human rights workers have been critical of the estimated 90 arrests that have been made in wake of the Nov 24 attack on government offices by alleged anti-government fighters that left as many as eight dead.
About half of those arrested were released and the other half were charged with acts of terrorism and membership in an illegal armed force—offenses that carry life sentences.
The Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists issued a statement Tuesday, saying the group was concerned about the arrest of Bun Chan To, a top Sam Rainsy Party activist in Pailin and a reporter for the Voice of Khmer Youth newspaper.
The association claimed the arrest was made without a warrant, and demanded that authorities taking suspects into custody follow the law. It also asked the government to explain Bun Chan To’s arrest so “journalists would not feel fear in fulfilling their duty.”
The Human Rights Action Committee issued a similar statement recently, saying arrests must not be made at random.
“We have not done anything wrong,” said Kek Galabru, the head of local human rights group Licadho. “We are under the paw [of the government].”
Hun Sen said at least 1 percent of NGOs are bad, and asked human rights workers to stay out of the investigation because it’s a government matter.
He also questioned those who accuse the government of orchestrating the fighting as a pretext to go after its political opponents.
“Why do you have the freedom to speak and not us?” Hun Sen asked. “I want to create a commission that protects the rights of the government.”
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)