A Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalist summoned to appear in court today over accusations that he falsely identified himself during a prison visit last month has traveled to Washington and will not return to Cambodia, RFA said on Monday.
Huot Khin Vuthy, the station’s deputy director for Cambodia, “will not return to Cambodia after a weekend trip [to Bangkok] at the behest of RFA leadership,” the U.S.-funded station said in a statement sent by email.
Mr. Khin Vuthy left Cambodia on Friday for Thailand, before leaving to the U.S. on Sunday morning.
“It has become clear that authorities have chosen to politicize their case against him with the aim of distracting the Cambodian people” in the run-up to next month’s commune elections, the RFA statement says.
The station also said its employee’s safety in Cambodia was uncertain and there was no guarantee that the rule of law would be applied fairly, claims officials dismissed.
Mr. Khin Vuthy, known on-air as Chun Chanboth, is accused of false declaration, a charge that carries up to two years in prison, for allegedly misidentifying himself as an opposition CNRP assistant when he signed in to Prey Sar prison.
RFA said on Monday that he “committed no crime” and did not misrepresent himself while signing in to the prison alongside an opposition delegation to visit 16 imprisoned CNRP officials and activists on April 19.
The group included CNRP lawmakers Long Ry and Mu Sochua, who appeared in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning last week.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak on Monday accused Mr. Khin Vuthy of being “a dog of the RFA director…because he listened to their order” to flee the country.
“It shows that Radio Free Asia, since the beginning, is not independent radio. It’s radio that has intentions to overthrow the royal government, which is elected by the Cambodian people,” General Sopheak said.
He said the authorities would take action against the journalist if he failed to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, but declined to elaborate.
Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap said the court would continue its investigation regardless of Mr. Khin Vuthy’s presence at the court.
Mr. Khin Vuthy said in a Facebook post on Monday evening that he always wanted to be a journalist and tell true stories.
“I always try to make it easy to understand for listeners and the truth is what the listener likes the most,” he said.