Released Activists Say They Will Persist in Work

Despite warnings from Prime Minister Hun Sen to end their criticism, the five activists released on bail last week said they would con­tin­ue working as normal, even if it in­cludes criticizing the government.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Kem Sokha, CCHR Deputy Director Pa Nguon Te­ang, Beehive Radio station own­er Mam Sonando, Cambodian Teach­ers’ Association President Rong Chhun and Community Leg­al Education Center Executive Dir­ec­tor Yeng Virak said Monday they will continue promoting hum­an rights and democracy in the count­ry.

“I still have the freedom to continue my normal activities,” Kem Sok­ha told reporters at a press conference at the FCC bar and restaurant.

“I can’t apologize to the government because I haven’t made a mis­take,” he said.

Hun Sen told reporters on Sun­day that he has the ability to ask for a pardon for the five men if they are con­victed of defaming him.

“But with their few days’ behavior, I think there is no pardon,” Hun Sen said, referring to comments the five have made since their re­lease from prison.

The five also reiterated their ap­peal for the government to downgrade defamation from a criminal to a civil charge.

“To imprison people because of de­­famation, that is a serious charge,” Yeng Virak said.

After the news conference, the five visited Preah Ang Dangker on the riverfront in front of the Royal Pal­ace where they prayed.

CCHR spokesman Ou Virak then delivered to King Norodom Sihamoni a petition bearing 127,154 thumbprints from Cam­bodians calling for the lawsuits and charges to be dropped.

During a 15-minute audience at the Royal Palace, Ou Virak said the King expressed concern about the de­famation charges and “he also brought a message from the re­tired King [Norodom Sihanouk] saying they are all concerned.”

Ou Virak said King Sihamoni told him the petitions would be forwarded to the government.

The CCHR is continuing to collect thumbprints, which will also be sent to the Royal Palace, Ou Virak said. Royal cabinet member Oum Da­r­a­vuth said he was too busy to comment.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khi­eu Sopheak said the activists should thank the prime minister for sec­uring their release rather than continuing to criticize him.

Hun Sen acted as guarantors for the men, promising they would ap­pear in court when summoned and not flee the country, Khieu Sop­h­eak said.

“Hun Sen himself guaranteed that they will show up at court,” he said. “If I was Kem Sokha, I would thank Hun Sen for this.”

Khieu Sopheak added that the prime minister did not tell the men to stop working.

“Constructive criticism is okay. So far you can see some of them are not constructive.”


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