Amnesty International on Friday urged the Thai government to release former Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Yoeun from detention and resettle him in a third country.
Pointing to Sok Yoeun’s status as a UNHCR-recognized refugee, the rights group said in a statement that, “Refugee and prisoner of conscience Sok Yoeun is at risk of being forcibly returned to Cambodia where he faces an unfair trial and years of imprisonment. A Thai court is due to make a decision on his extradition within the next few weeks.”
Sok Yoeun fled to Thailand in 1999 after being accused of involvement in a 1998 Siem Reap rocket attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s motorcade. The attack killed a teen-age boy but did not harm the premier. Amnesty International described the allegation as “widely believed to be unfounded.”
“Sok Yoeun was arrested on 24 December, 1999, after a Thai politician complained that Thailand was harboring a Cambodian ‘terrorist.’ Two months earlier he had been forced into making a videotaped confession, after he was detained and threatened by a Thai national,” according to the rights group.
Amnesty International also decried the “harsh” prison conditions it says Sok Yoeun has endured and blamed them for a sharp decline in his health.
Sok Yoeun’s attorneys have called the charges against him a frame-up, claiming the his arrest warrant was issued two weeks before the attack.
Two other men—both members of the opposition party—were arrested for participating in the attack. They were released six months later in March 2000 due to a lack of evidence. They have since fled the country, the rights group said.
Sok Yoeun has repeatedly denied involvement in the attack. He and his allies have said they fear he will be killed if handed over to the Cambodian authorities.
Om Yientieng, a senior adviser to Hun Sen, said Sunday that the Cambodian government still intends to see Sok Yoeun extradited and tried on assassination charges.