Almost three weeks after acting CNRP President Kem Sokha met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and reportedly put the wheels in motion for four officers from rights group Adhoc and an election official to be freed from prison, officials on Monday indicated that no progress had since been made.
Speaking to reporters after a session at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who heads the CPP’s parliamentary group, said the parties had yet to continue their discussions over the release.
“There is no change. Generally, we work hard to set the time to meet each other. But at the end of the year, I am busy,” Mr. Kheng said.
“Until now, I don’t know what is going on with the court process. Because it is involved with the courts, and we cannot do it instead of the courts,” he said.
Following a meeting between Mr. Sokha and Mr. Hun Sen on December 7 that appeared to signal a new political detente between the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP, Mr. Kheng had said, “Maybe by the end of December there will be a resolution of the cases of human rights officials and the deputy secretary-general of the NEC.”
The CNRP was less cautious, with Kem Monovithya, the party’s deputy director of public affairs, tweeting after the meeting that the five would be freed by the end of the year.
“Imprisoned opposition commune chief, 4 rights workers and 1 election official will be free before end of this month,” she wrote at the time.
Ms. Monovithya did not respond to an online message on Monday when asked if she still expected that result.
Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann said he was not aware of any discussion between the parties about the release of the five since the December 7 meeting. He said he was “a little bit worried” about the release being stalled.
“I am not pessimistic, but not optimistic,” he said. “Sometimes we should stay a little bit quiet and wait to see what developments are going on.”
The four Adhoc officials—Lim Mony, Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha and Yi Soksan—and election official Ny Chakrya, who previously worked for Adhoc, have now been in prison for 243 days without a trial.
International human rights and legal groups have condemned the case, and local rights group Licadho includes the five on its list of 26 political prisoners in the country. Earlier this month, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the five “have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders.”
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)