Rights Groups Lambast Sok Yoeun Decision

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International and the UN have both criticized a Thai court ruling to send Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Yoeun back to Cambodia, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with a 1998 rocket attack in Siem Reap that supporters of Prime Minister Hun Sen claim was an attempt on the premier’s life.

Thai criminal court judge Phon Anuwatnitikarn refused to recognize Sok Yoeun’s UN refugee status Thursday when he ruled to extradite Sok Yoeun, saying the defendant’s case was not a political one and the 57 year-old could legally be sent back to Cambodia.             Rights officials fear Sok Yoeun will not receive fair treatment if his case is tried by Cambodia’s notoriously biased judiciary.

“In view of the politicized nature of the case and the fact that Cambodia’s judiciary has in the past shown itself to be highly prone to external pressure, Sok Yoeun could be at significant risk of persecution if extradited to Cambodia,” UN human rights office spokesman Henrik Allfram said in an e-mail Thursday.

Amnesty International also weighed in Thursday.

“Sok Yoeun has received [UN] refugee status and should receive international protection. He must not be sent back to Cambodia,” Srirak Plipat, director of Amnesty Thailand, told Thai newspaper The Nation.

Sam Rainsy Party officials claim that Sok Yoeun, who fled to Thailand in late 1999, could be killed in police custody here.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith dismissed those allegations Thursday, saying Sok Yoeun is only wanted for questioning and has not been convicted of a crime.

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