Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An act of ‘intimidation’

An act of ‘intimidation’

Cambodia National Rescue Party youth leader Neang Sokhoun is detained by authorities in Phnom Penh on Saturday
Cambodia National Rescue Party youth leader Neang Sokhoun is detained by authorities in Phnom Penh on Saturday in connection with violence at Freedom Park last month. PHOTO SUPPLIED

An act of ‘intimidation’

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders yesterday labelled the arrests of three members of the party’s youth wing on Saturday an act of “intimidation” contrary to the spirit of the July 22 agreement to end the CNRP’s boycott of parliament.

Kheun Chamreoun, an elected district councillor and head of the party’s youth movement in Phnom Penh, councillor San Kim Heng and 25-year-old Tuol Kork district youth movement treasurer Neang Sokhoun became the latest to be arrested on charges related to a violent July 15 protest in Freedom Park.

CNRP president Sam Rainsy yesterday accused the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of using the threat of legal action to pressure the opposition to take its seats in the National Assembly before stalled working group negotiations could reach an agreement.

“This is very worrying because it is contrary to the spirit of the joint statement that the CNRP and CPP issued before the July 22 meeting. In that statement … the two parties decided to diffuse political tension, but their actions have only increased the tensions,” he said.

Seven opposition lawmakers and an activist were arrested in the immediate wake of the July 15 protest, which saw several irregular security force members sustain injuries.

All eight were released hours after an agreement was reached to end the deadlock on July 22. However, outstanding charges could see them face decades in prison if found guilty.

On Friday, they were summonsed to appear in court again later this month to answer further questions along with CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha.

Councillor Chamreoun was charged with the same offences as the eight previously detained, while Kim Heng and Sokhoun were charged with intentional violence, joining an insurrection and violence against civil servants, according to their lawyer, Sam Sok Kong.

CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua, who was one of those jailed last month, said the continued arrests and threats of legal action were part of a campaign of intimidation.

“It’s all about intimidation, about trying to make us live in fear,” she said. “Do we accept to live in fear? We do not.”

Several government officials could not be reached to respond to the allegations of intimidation yesterday, but a statement from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit denied there was a political motive behind the arrests.

CNRP members Mu Sochua
CNRP members Mu Sochua (centre right) and Keo Phirom (centre left) are detained by military personnel last month in Phnom Penh. Vireak Mai

“The arrest of these three individuals is the proper enforcement of procedure, according to the complaint of the victims, in taking action against the individuals who broke the law,” the statement reads.

Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said it was fear of a popular uprising that fuelled the government’s crackdown on the opposition.

“Hun Sen was concerned that the rising people power movement would topple the government, as has happened in countries in the Middle East,” he said. “The government seems to be very worried about this, and we see all the charges are for insurrection.”

Political analyst Kem Ley painted Hun Sen as a master tactician accustomed to outmanoeuvring opponents.

“Hun Sen has played the game of political chess for a very long time, since 1993. His tactics were not obvious before, but later, people began to understand. Even though people are not used to playing his game, they can now see that it is political manoeuvring,” he said.

Rainsy said that while the party would do all it could to assist its jailed members, it would not waver in its demands for reform.

“We will keep insisting that our goals are met,” he said.

Talks between the two working groups stalled late last week after a deal was reached to amend the internal rules of parliament, but without reaching a consensus on how to amend the constitution and election law.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng responded to a set of CNRP draft amendments by issuing his own, which did not include a provision for granting parliamentary immunity to members of the reformed National Election Committee. This could throw another spanner in the works, as immunity was a key condition for “consensus” NEC appointee Pung Chhiv Kek to accept the job.

The parties are due to hold further talks this week.

On the progress of the negotiations, Sochua said that disagreements were a healthy sign.

“Sometimes, I can tell you, the conversations at a technical level get heated. But the heated conversations actually show that the two sides are starting to work together,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to