Free Trade Union President Chea Mony said Monday that he is under the protection of an Ireland-based human rights organization and will not return to Cambodia until defamation and incitement charges lodged against him by Prime Minister Hun Sen are dropped.
Chea Mony left for Ireland to attend a human rights conference on Oct 11 and was outside the country when Hun Sen filed the defamation charges against him and three others for their statements criticizing the border agreement with Vietnam.
“I am afraid to go back because I am afraid of being arrested,” Chea Mony, the brother of slain union leader Chea Vichea, said by telephone from Ireland.
“If my charges are dropped I will return,” he said.
“I don’t want to stay in Ireland but [rights group Front Line] asked me not to return so I decided to stay.”
Arrested Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun, Cambodian Independent Civil Servant Association President Man Nath and Student Movement for Democracy Deputy Secretary-General Ear Channa were also named in the defamation case.
The four men were also faced with charges of inciting others to commit a crime.
Chea Mony said Front Line is working with the Irish government to extend his visa and is scheduled to fly to France today to address a conference about freedom of expression in Cambodia.
The charges against him and the other three men constitute an attack by the government on their freedom, he added.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the court has only issued summons for the four men to appear in court for questioning, not arrest warrants.
Explaining Rong Chhun’s arrest and imprisonment, the minister said he was arrested because he tried to flee to Thailand.
In the wake of the National Assembly ratifying the supplemental treaty on Friday, several critics have appealed to King Norodom Sihamoni not to sign the treaty.
The King has reportedly agreed to sign the treaty to ensure stability and to ensure the monarchy’s survival.
“We would like to urge the King not to sign the treaty because it is illegal,” Sorn Dara, Student Movement for Democracy acting president, said at a Monday press conference.
“The King should not be worried because the monarchy remains in the people’s conscience,” he said.