Three CNRP Youth Freed On Bail

Three CNRP Youth activists facing charges over a July 15 brawl at Freedom Park were released on bail from Prey Sar Prison Friday, meaning that all 16 opposition figures implicated in what prosecutors say was an insurrection have been set free for the time being.

The Appeal Court overturned the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s ruling to deny bail for the three, who were imprisoned on August 2. But charges ranging from leading an insurrection to joining an insurrection still hang over the heads of seven CNRP lawmakers and nine party activists.

Khin Chamrouen, head of the CNRP's Phnom Penh Youth, emerges from Prey Sar Prison Friday afternoon after being released on bail along with two other opposition activists. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Khin Chamrouen, head of the CNRP’s Phnom Penh Youth, emerges from Prey Sar Prison Friday afternoon after being released on bail along with two other opposition activists. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“We released them on bail because we considered that they have wives and children and they have clear addresses and they promised they will not interfere with the court’s investigation,” said presiding Judge Seng Sivutha, deputy president of the Appeal Court.

“They must follow the law, if they break the law, the court will arrest and put them in jail again,” Mr. Sivutha said, adding that there was no political pressure to reverse the municipal court’s decision.

Ket Khy, a lawyer for the three CNRP Youth, said that a total of $7,500 had been posted as surety.

Khin Chamrouen, head of the CNRP’s Phnom Penh Youth; Neang Sokhun, a CNRP Youth leader for Tuol Kok district and San Kimheng, the treasurer for the CNRP Youth in Meanchey district, were arrested on August 2 for their roles in a July 15 demonstration to open Freedom Park, which was surrounded by razor-wire fences at the time.

All three were charged with participating in an insurrection and intentional violence after a group of protesters fought back against security guards working for the municipality, who had for months violently dispersed opposition demonstrations. At least three of the guards were savagely beaten and sent to the hospital with serious injuries.

On the day of the demonstration, which was led by CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, she and fellow lawmakers Ho Vann, Men Sothavrin and Keo Phirum were arrested. In the following days, lawmakers Real Camerin, Nuth Rumduol and Long Ry, as well as Ms. Sochua’s assistant Oeur Narith, were also arrested and imprisoned.

All eight were charged with leading an insurrection and incitement to commit a felony. They were released from prison on July 22, just hours after CNRP President Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen struck a deal to end the opposition’s boycott of parliament.

Since then, five other CNRP activists—Meach Sovannara, Tep Narin, Sam Seyhak, Ouch Pichsamnang and An Paktham—have been summoned by the court over charges of joining an insurrection.

Ms. Sochua said on Friday that she was confident that the party “could move on in the spirit of the July 22 agreement,” despite 16 party officials having criminal charges, which carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, hanging over them.

“We are working to make sure that the arrests stop and that the charges are dropped,” she said. “I think we can move forward in the spirit of the agreement. At the technical level, the two parties are working together on the reform of the [National Election Committee], and that is a good thing.”

The day that the seven lawmakers and one activist were released from prison, Prum Sokha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior who represented the ruling party in talks leading up to the July agreement, said that “the National Assembly will consider their immunity and ask the court to drop the case.”

Mr. Sokha could not be reached for comment Friday.

Sok Sam Oeun, a leading human rights lawyer, said Friday that the charges against the 16 could hang over them indefinitely and that they could be hauled before the courts on a whim.

“There is no time limit,” Mr. Sam Ouen said about how long the charges could stand without a trial. “We can see that in many political cases, such as Mu Sochua’s case, it is still not closed. The court can call her back any time.”

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