Almost two years after their arrest on outlandish charges of “espionage”, two of Cambodia’s finest journalists are snared by a government assault on free expression. At the heart of their legal woes is their past work for Radio Free Asia, a US-funded broadcaster that has long been a trusted source of independent news in the country.
Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin spent nine months in pre-trial detention in Phnom Penh’s squalid Prey Sar Prison after their Nov 14, 2017, arrest. They were then released on bail but their torment continues. They await the outcome of an unpredictable trial that could yet see them sentenced to 15 years.
The verdict has already been postponed twice. Although the trial was said to have concluded in August, the presiding judge declared on Oct 3 the evidence was insufficient to rule the men guilty or innocent. But rather than acquit them, he ordered a “re-investigation”, meaning Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin’s ordeal at the hands of Cambodia’s politicised court system continues to this day with no end in sight.