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Accused secessionist Ratha ‘given asylum’

Fugitive “secessionist” Bun Ratha – who was sentenced to 30 years in prison on largely unsubstantiated charges of fomenting armed insurrection in Kratie province in 2012 – has been granted asylum in the Netherlands after a long, self-imposed exile in Thailand, according to a media report.

Ratha, who told Radio Free Asia on Friday that he had been in the Netherlands for a month, said he would continue efforts to help Cambodians. He also said he missed his country.

“If I compare [the two], I prefer Cambodia,” he said.

As of press time, a representative with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Netherlands was unable to confirm whether Ratha had officially been granted asylum.

Ratha was accused of leading a secessionist plot in Kratie province’s Pro Ma village, which had been locked in a land dispute with agribusiness firm Casotim. Authorities used the alleged plot – which villagers, observers and the suspected leaders themselves all decried as fabricated – as justification to send heavily armed soldiers and police to storm the village and evict its residents in May 2012.

A 14-year-old girl was fatally shot in the eviction, and no investigation was conducted.

Several accused secessionists – including Ratha and Beehive Radio founder Mam Sonando – were convicted in what rights groups called a show trial. Sonando’s sentence was later suspended, while Ratha had already fled to Thailand to escape prosecution.

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