Pardoned ‘Terrorists’ Accept Positions With Political Party

Three men who were pardoned last week for their terrorism-related convictions have accepted salaried positions with the Khmer Power Party (KPP), which was founded by the self-exiled dissident whose instructions from abroad had put them in jail for more than two years.

The three men—Seng Sok Meng, Um Phearun and Serey Bunlong—were arrested in mid-2013 while in the process of delivering T-shirts that Sourn Serey Ratha had ordered from overseas bearing a message urging people not to vote in the national election.

From left, Um Phearun, Serey Bunlong and Seng Sok Meng attend a press conference at the Phnom Penh headquarters of the Khmer Power Party on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
From left, Um Phearun, Serey Bunlong and Seng Sok Meng attend a press conference at the Phnom Penh headquarters of the Khmer Power Party on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The trio was convicted in January of obstructing elections and plotting against the government and sentenced to either five or six years in prison. On the additional charge of incitement, Mr. Serey Ratha was sentenced in absentia to seven years.

In an about face, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had personally branded them all terrorists, recently requested a royal pardon for the men, and they walked free on Friday.

During a press conference at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters Wednesday, KPP spokesman Tep Virak said the men had been given jobs with the party, two as assistants to Mr. Serey Ratha and one as deputy director of its executive network commission, which is charged with recruitment.

Though the three denied being members of Mr. Serey Ratha’s Khmer People Power Movement at the time of their arrests, they said upon their release that the financial support he provided to them and their families during their time in jail had won them over.

“Even if I were not released from prison, I would still support the Khmer Power Party,” said Mr. Bunlong, the new deputy director.

The three are also considering seeking damages from the government for their imprisonment.

“We are thinking about complaining to demand compensation from the government because we are innocent,” Mr. Bunlong said.

Mr. Serey Ratha has said he intends to return to Cambodia on October 1.

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