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Man briefly detained over criticism of gov’t

A man in Kampong Speu’s Oral district was briefly placed under house arrest yesterday, following his public criticism of the government and prime minister at a town hall meeting.

Ung Ny, Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) Oral district executive director, said that 45-year-old Hay Hoeun, a supporter of the opposition party, was told by commune police not leave his Phlov Kor village home for about four hours until police had determined that he had committed no crime.

According to Ny, local Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) activists filed a complaint with the police after Hoeun criticised the government for taking on foreign loans to develop local infrastructure.

“[Hoeun] did not insult anyone, he just expressed his opinion during a meeting in his village; he criticised the government borrowing millions of dollars from foreign countries,” he said, adding that “the police came to Hoeun’s house and asked him not to leave from his house, but he was freed after the police found no evidence against him”.

Buth Bunthoeun, Oral district police chief, yesterday reportedly told local media that police had collected evidence against Hoeun, but in an interview yesterday he denied having made the statements or seeking to arrest any CNRP supporters.

“I don’t have information about Hoeun’s arrest,” Bunthoeun said, before hanging up the phone.

Tep Nam, Trapaing Chor commune chief, said Hoeun allegedly insulted Prime Minister Hun Sen for having a “blind eye” while riding his tractor home from his farm.

“So far, there is no arrest, but the police continue to investigate about his case,” Nam added.

Sok Umsea, a CNRP lawmaker who represents Kampong Speu, was unaware of Hoeun’s case.

Political analyst Ou Virak said yesterday that this degree of crackdown on political speech reflects that “the level of paranoia is actually on the rise”.

“You have a big government whose power is under threat so they will try all they can to hold onto power,” he said, adding that “in the minds of the political elite, politics is a zero-sum, winner-take-all game”.

Virak went on to say incidents such as the day’s events are “to be expected given that the CPP is out to put a lot of pressure on the opposition, including legal and physical harassment . . . It will only get worse as the [2018] election gets closer.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALESSANDRO MARAZZI SASSOON

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