The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced May Hong Srieng, a former Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) activist from Preah Sihanouk province, to one and a half years in prison on Thursday.
His lawyer Ket Khy said Hong Srieng was handed a guilty verdict on Thursday for “incitement to commit a crime” after a trial hearing on September 26. Another charge of “incitement to discriminate” was dropped.
“We will file an appeal against this ruling. It is very unfair because May Hong Hong Srieng did not incite the committing of a crime, nor did his Facebook posts break any laws. My client has been jailed despite being innocent,” Ky told The Post on Thursday.
Hong Srieng was caught by police in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district in late July after escaping arrest in Preah Sihanouk province.
Hong Srieng’s wife Kea Sisokunty, who did not attend the verdict announcement, called on the authorities to release her husband.
“I am so dejected because my husband has not been served justice. He did not do anything wrong. Exercising your freedom of expression does not mean you should go to jail,” Sisokun said.
Separately, a former commune chief has visited the Phnom Penh Municipal Police to condemn CNRP “acting president” Sam Rainsy’s return plans, which the government have called a “coup” attempt.
Rainsy has announced that he will return to Cambodia on November 9 and use “people power” to arrest Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Former CNRP Depot II commune chief Seng Sokhorn went to Phnom Penh police headquarters on Wednesday, according to video broadcast by state media channel TVK.
“After Sam Rainsy had a meeting in Malaysia, I received a plan from Morn Phalla [the former head of the CNRP’s executive committee in the capital] to provoke people into welcoming Sam Rainsy when he returns to Cambodia.
“Then I saw what Rainsy did, calling on people to rise up and the military to turn its guns on the government, and then insulting the King. I understand that all of these are acts of treason and wrong.
“Having understood that I decided to come forward and confess to the authorities. I condemn all of Sam Rainsy’s actions, such as inciting people to point guns at the government, to rise up and go against the government, and insulting the King,” Sokhorn said.
She was charged on Monday with “plotting” along with Tith Sophat, Khen Sok Heang, Kruy Sokhemrint and Voeung Samnang.
Former CNRP Phsar Depot II commune council member Sophat and Prek Pra commune chief Sok Heang were arrested on Monday.
A National Police spokesperson said a total of 27 people had been arrested as of Thursday for “plotting” since the government declared Rainsy’s announcement of having a budget in place for defecting military as a “coup” attempt.
The Ministry of Justice said nearly 30 people have now been charged with plotting across the country, with the courts calling on those involved in Rainsy’s plans to confess and receive clemency.
Sokhorn could not be reached, but her son Chea Saroeun said on Thursday that his mother was clarifying the situation with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Sokhorn had decided at the right time to confess, something that could help her avoid charges.
“The confession shows that some CNRP activists have come to their senses at the right time regarding Sam Rainsy’s plans. For those who still believe in Rainsy, there is nothing left for them but arrest,” Phea said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said: “It is too early to say whether the government’s current bait will be any more successful than its previous ones. The government’s offer of continued commune council jobs failed to get many CNRP councillors to defect and rally to its side.
“The government’s offer of political rehabilitation was also not particularly successful, with few of the 118 banned senior CNRP officials applying for it,” Mong Hay said.
Meanwhile, National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khuoen said on Thursday that three more people have been arrested for “plotting”.
Ly Kim Heang, 47, and Orn Saven, 64, were arrested in Kampong Cham, while Chhim Marady, 40, was arrested in Kampong Speu.
Kim Khoeun said the number of arrests in recent weeks came to 27.