NGO the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on Monday released a statement condemning the arrest warrants filed last week by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Mu Sochua and seven other senior officials of the Supreme-Court dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
“We, the Board Members of APHR, strongly condemn the arrest warrants filed against APHR Board Member Mu Sochua and seven others in Cambodia.
“The criminal charges that led to the warrants are entirely politically motivated and baseless, and mark yet another attempt by the Cambodian government to harass opposition politicians,” the statement read.
The APHR statement also claimed the CNRP was “arbitrarily disbanded” by the Cambodian government, adding that “harassment and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and opposition activists in Cambodia have continued since the election”.
It also urged the government to “immediately drop all politically motivated criminal charges against CNRP members, human rights activists and others” in Cambodia.
Sochua, CNRP vice-president and an APHR board member, was among the senior CNRP members named in the court letters dated Thursday and made public on Sunday and accused of “plotting” and “incitement”.
Besides Sochua, the eight accused were fellow vice-president Eng Chhai Eang and CNRP co-founder and “acting president” Sam Rainsy, as well as former lawmakers Long Ry, Men Sothavarin, Ou Chanrath, Tok Vanchan and Ho Vann.
The officials represent eight of 24 former CNRP permanent committee members.
In the court letters, Investigating Judge Koy Sao ordered the arrests of the officials, all of whom currently live abroad.
“[The person] is charged with plotting and incitement to commit offences committed in Cambodia and other places on January 20, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 in accordance with articles 453, 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code,” one of the arrest warrants reads.
While the warrants did not specify the events in question, it is believed the charges relate to, among other things, a meeting held on January 21 in Lowell, Massachusetts in the US.
The meeting was reportedly held to prepare the return of Rainsy to Cambodia, including collecting money and creating a network of supporters to welcome him back.
Under the terms of the Supreme Court ruling, the banned former opposition politicians are not permitted to participate in any form of politics, either in Cambodia or abroad.
After the arrest warrants were made public, Ry and Chhai Eang labelled the charges against them a “gift” for the upcoming Khmer New Year celebrations.
“The court issued a summons ordering the arrest of me and other CNRP leaders. What do our compatriots think about these summons?” Vann wrote on Facebook at the time.
Sochua told The Post on Sunday that the arrest warrants represented “nothing more than a threat and intimidation”.
According to the Criminal Code, “incitement to commit offences” carries a sentence of between six months and two years in prison, while “plotting” is punishable by five to 10 years in jail.