Local and international groups over the weekend released statements welcoming last week’s release on bail of the “Adhoc 5”, although the human rights group’s self-exiled president, Thun Saray, called for the charges against the five to be dismissed.
The five – Adhoc staffers Lim Mony, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Nay Vanda, and former staffer and National Election Committee official Ny Chakrya – were released on bail on Thursday after Investigating Judge Theam Chanpiseth ordered that their case go to trial at a future date.
The five were accused last year of bribing opposition leader Kem Sokha’s alleged mistress, to whom they were providing legal representation, to deny an affair with him.
Saray, who has been living in Canada since last year due to threats he could be involved in the same case, said he was happy to see the release of his staffers and Chakrya after more than a year, but insisted that the cases should be dismissed entirely.
“I would like to call on all the relevant authorities, especially the court, to dismiss all the complaints against them so that they can have complete freedom,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.
The International Federation for Human Rights and Frontline Defenders, the World Organisation Against Torture and Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights also issued statements calling for the charges to be dropped immediately.
The European Union’s delegation in Cambodia also said it would continue to monitor the case of the five. The US Embassy also welcomed the move, but did not comment on speculation by Adhoc’s Yi Soksan that a private meeting between US Ambassador William Heidt and Prime Minister Hun Sen last week facilitated their release.
Adhoc spokesman Sam Chankea said the release came as a surprise to the group, which he said had been preparing to ask the courts to allow medical staff visiting the five in prison to provide medical care – a privilege they had been denied since April.
“They all have to have medical checkups now,” he said. “So, it depends on the medical doctors whether they need just one week or two weeks’ rest before they can work.”
Future Forum think tank Director Ou Virak said the arrests of the five, including Chakrya, the NEC’s deputy secretary-general in charge of election auditing, had helped to change the election environment. “People always think the crackdown will happen during the elections,” Virak said. “But it happens two or three years before the elections.”
He said the bailing of the five with the charges intact was likely a tactic to keep them on a short leash. “They will possibly keep it hanging to keep the [Adhoc 5] activists, and other activists, aware of the potential of [a] legal crackdown on them,” he said.
Additional reporting by Rinith Taing