Rights Group Pushes for Border Critics’ Release

Amnesty International has de­clared Mam Sonando of Beehive Radio and Rong Chhun of the Cambodian Independent Teach­ers’ Association prisoners of conscience, and urged the public to appeal to Cambodian authorities for their immediate and unconditional release.

In a statement received Thurs­day, the London-based rights group also asked the public to urge the government to withdraw criminal complaints against four additional border critics: Chea Mony, Free Trade Union president, Ear Chan­na, deputy secretary general of the Student Movement for De­mo­cracy, Man Nath, president of the Cambodian Independent Ci­vil Ser­vants Association, and Prince Siso­wath Thomico, special secretary to retired King Norodom Siha­nouk.

Amnesty asked for public ap­peals to be sent to Information Min­­i­s­ter and government spokes­man Khieu Kanharith, and requested people to call on the gov­­ernment “to state publicly that all Cam­bo­dians have the right to freedom of opinion and expression with­out fear of harassment or imprisonment.”

Amnesty said the October ar­rests of Rong Chhun and Mam Sonando were marred by irregularities, adding that proper arrest warrants were not produced and that the incitement charge against Rong Chhun does not stipulate what crime under Cambodian law he had allegedly incited.

Amnesty was also highly critical of the seven-year sentence meted out to opposition party member Cheam Channy in August for forming a so-called illegal armed force.

“This apparent hijacking of the judiciary by the executive branch is coupled with violence and threats against those who work to protect and defend the law and victims of abuse, including by criticizing the inaction or failings of those in au­thority,” Amnesty said.

Khieu Kanharith could not be contacted Friday, but he has previously said the government needs to react to people who accuse Hun Sen of selling land to Vietnam, as such behavior could topple the government.

He has also criticized Mam Sonando for failing to get a re­sponse from the government be­fore airing the interview that led to his incarceration.

Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun and head of the government’s human rights committee, could not be reached.


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