Mother Petitions Hun Sen For CFF Member’s Release

The mother of a man convicted of being a member of a terrorist group has sent a petition asking Prime Minister Hun Sen to pardon the jailed man, after winning the petition back from police earlier this year.

Duong Sopheap, 30, of Prey Veng province, is serving a seven-year sentence for his conviction on charges he was a member of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters.

His mother, Tith Sovanna, claims that more than 100 relatives, neighbors, friends and supporters affixed their thumbprints to a petition seeking his release, but police confiscated it in April. Authorities gave the petition back in July after human rights groups intervened, Tith Sovanna said.

The petition drive has received support from Senate Human Rights Committee Chairman Kem Sokha. He forwarded the pe­tition to Hun Sen and is waiting for a reply.  “I have a duty to help people and I accept everyone’s complaints,” Kem Sokha said.

The CFF, led by US-based accountant Chhun Yasith, took credit for a November 2000 raid in the capital, saying it was an attempt to overthrow the government. In the months after the failed assault, the government arrested hundreds of alleged CFF members, including Funcin­pec and Sam Rainsy Party ac­tivists. Human rights workers and party leaders have accused the government of using the CFF as a smokescreen to crack down on rivals.

Tith Sovanna caused a stir last November when she got down on both knees and begged King Norodom Sihanouk to pardon her son as the King left a wreath-laying ceremony at the Inde­pendence Monument. The 55-year-old Prey Veng woman said the petition states that Duong Sopheap will admit his crimes and apologize if the government releases him.

Tith Sovanna said she doubts the petition will make it to Hun Sen. “Police do not want me to take these thumbprints to Phnom Penh,” she said. “They intend to destroy it.”


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