Prime Minister Hun Sen took to Facebook yesterday to deny the existence of political prisoners in Cambodia, a stance greeted with a healthy dose of scepticism.
“There are no political prisoners, only politicians who commit illegal acts and are punished according to the laws,” Hun Sen wrote, when asked by a user to release political prisoners.
But amid a spate of cases widely believed to be politically motivated, rights group Licadho currently identifies 26 political prisoners on its website, a position deputy director Naly Pilorge confirmed yesterday.
“The number of political prisoners . . . has risen sharply as the authorities have made increasing use of the criminal justice system to persecute dissenters,” a Licadho statement reads.
Licadho lists officials from rights group Adhoc as well as opposition lawmakers as current political prisoners.
Analyst Ou Virak also agreed yesterday that “there are people in jail right now who would qualify as political prisoners”.
But CPP spokesman Sok Eysan maintained that the Adhoc staffers in particular weren’t political prisoners because they haven’t been convicted, despite having already spent 250 days in pre-trial detention.