Three more activists for the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were arrested and placed in pre-trial detention for their roles in allegedly gathering support for the return of “acting president” Sam Rainsy on November 9.
The three arrests brings the number of people detained in September on similar charges to at least 14.
An Oddar Meanchey Provincial Court Prosecutors Office press release said the court had charged Monh Sarath with “plotting”, under Article 453 of the Criminal Code, following an interview he conducted with Voice of America (VoA) on Thursday.
Sarath allegedly discussed mobilising the province’s migrant workers in Thailand to travel to Phnom Penh and participate in a plot to topple the government upon Rainsy’s return.
The press release said anyone involved in supporting Rainsy and participating in a plot to overthrow the legitimate government would be sent to court and face five to 10 years imprisonment if found guilty.
On Thursday, the Kampong Cham Provincial Court charged Soeun Seang, 43, with plotting with Rainsy, after Seang allegedly mobilised people in Chamkar Leu and Kampong Siem districts to travel to the capital on November 9 and participate in the plot, according to a prosecutors office press release.
In a third case, a Svay Rieng Provincial Court Prosecutors Office press release said the court had charged Mao Vibol, 37, from Svay Chrum district’s Kok Pring commune, with “plotting and incitement to commit a felony” under Articles 453, 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code.
Vibol is also alleged to have supported and participated in the plot to topple the government through an appeal on his Facebook page and an interview with Radio Free Asia in August and last month.
Also, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Kouy Sao issued a warrant ordering authorities throughout the Kingdom to find and arrest Sao Usaphea, 25, for “plotting and incitement to disturb social security” under Articles 453, 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code.
On September 2, three CNRP activists were placed in pre-trial detention by the Kampong Thom Provincial Court. Two of the detained, Sun Bunthun and Nou Phoeun, were charged with four offences, while the third, Ros Kim Sieng, had at the time not been informed of the charges against him.
Thai Thim, a former member of the CNRP’s Kampong Thom Executive Committee, told The Post on September 4 that Bunthun and Phoeun were charged by the court with insulting the prime minister on the phone, incitement to discriminate, sharing information on social media apparently insulting the government leadership and sharing propaganda on Rainsy’s return.
Six CNRP activists were placed in pre-trial detention at Prey Sar prison on September 16, after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged them with “plotting and incitement to disturb social security”.
A CNRP statement issued on September 14 alleged that the authorities had arrested the activists without a warrant. It named the six detainees as Tum Bunthan, You Chantheany, Ly Lin, Ly Meng Kheang, Yat Phearum and Chhun Thai Yuth.
A detention warrant for Chantheany, 25, obtained by The Post on September 16, said she was charged according to Articles 453, 495 and 498 of the Criminal Code.
The action taken by the courts came after the Ministry of Justice warned that any civil servant participating in a plot with Rainsy to stage a “coup” to topple the government would face life imprisonment, while any member of the public participating in such a plot would be imprisoned for five to 10 years.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said: “The courts have fulfilled their duties as the state’s agents in enforcing the law. If the government or authorities fail to take timely action, it will lead to even bigger problems.
“If we fail to prevent or put out a spark, it could lead to a fire.”
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said: “Such a crackdown affects the efforts to seek a political solution and it makes it difficult for Cambodia to deal with the international community.
“Cambodia will receive more pressure from the international community, so [the government] should not have such a strong reaction and so much fear. It affects citizens and makes them even more scared.”