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Anti-government group imprisoned

Five men who distributedhundreds of leaflets critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen between the years 2008 and 2011 were sentenced to jail time yesterday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. 

The leaflets accused the prime minister of selling Cambodian land to foreign countries, calling him a “traitor” and a “puppet of Vietnam”, municipal court judge Sem Sak Kola said.  

She added that the leaflet referred to the ousting of the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979, as “the day Vietnam occupied Cambodia”.

The verdict, announced yesterday, found all five dissenters guilty of “inciting the people to commit serious crimes against Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Government of Cambodia”.

Phon Sam Ath, a 26-year-old teacher and former student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, was arrested on January 27, 2011, in Takeo Province, Sem Sak Kola said.  She referred to him as the “mastermind” of the operation, adding that he had written and distributed hundreds of leaflets in both Battambang and Phnom Penh.

Four others – So Khemarak, aged 25, Ngor Menghong, 21, Eang Samorn, 23, and Chem Bol, 27 – were arrested on February 29 in the capital.

Phon Sam Ath and Eang Samorn were both sentenced to two years in prison, while their three collaborators each received 18 months, Sem Sak Kola said. All five were fined two million riel (US$487).  

In an interview yesterday, Ouk Syroeun, defence lawyer for So Khemarak, called the verdict “unjust”.  

“My client did not commit the crimes he is being accused of…he did not break any laws,” he said, adding that he was asking the court to drop all charges.

Ouk Syroeun yesterday submitted an appeal to the Appeal Court in an effort to overturn the verdict and, he said, to “find justice for [So Khemarak]”. The five convicted could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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