Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Activists jailed over protests in 2014 contest convictions



Activists jailed over protests in 2014 contest convictions

CNRP activists Ouk Pich Samnang (center) and Meach Sovannara (right) peer from a police truck outside the Appeal Court on Monday.
CNRP activists Ouk Pich Samnang (center) and Meach Sovannara (right) peer from a police truck outside the Appeal Court on Monday. Pha Lina

Activists jailed over protests in 2014 contest convictions

Eight opposition activists in prison for their alleged involvement in an “insurrection” at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in 2014 were questioned in the Appeal Court on Monday during a hearing contesting their convictions.

In all, 11 activists were convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2015 for leading and participating in the alleged “insurrection” at Freedom Park during post-election demonstrations.

The case centres on a demonstration held on the outskirts of the park, which had been blockaded by security forces to prevent any political activity. The protest became violent when demonstrators, who for months had seen nonviolent rallies violently dispersed, turned on the notorious Daun Penh district security guards, badly beating several.

The defendants have maintained their innocence, with some saying that far from inciting the violence, they had actually attempted to quell it, and little evidence to support their direct involvement was presented in the lower court.

Three of the activists – Meach Sovannara, Ouer Narith and Khim Chamroeun – were sentenced to 20 years in prison for leading the supposed insurrection and were questioned in court prior to Khmer New Year.

The case came at a time of heightened tensions between the opposition and ruling parties following the disputed 2013 election, and many observers have contended that it was politically motivated.

The remaining activists were questioned on Monday about their knowledge of the protests and peppered with questions about who had initiated the violence, if the guards or protesters had been armed and if there had been a plan to occupy the buildings around the park.

The defendants include Ouk Pich Samnang, Sum Puthy, Neang Sokhun, San Seihak, San Kimheng, Tep Narin, An Butham and Ke Khim, who were each sentenced to seven years for participating in the alleged insurrection.

During the questioning, Pich Samnang said that he attended the protest only to demand the opening up of Freedom Park, which he contended was a symbol of the right to freedom of expression.

“They [the lower court] are crazy. They did not have enough evidence to sentence us,” he said, prompting a response from Prosecutor Nget Sarath to calm down.

Mao Piseth, a security guard from Daun Penh district’s Sras Chak commune, said that he was asked to manage traffic and public order at the protest but that someone had thrown a rock at his arm and punched him in the jaw.

“I did not file a complaint against someone specific but I filed against the group of protesters,” he said.

Another guard, Soun Piseth, was unable to answer basic questions asked by the judge, prompting Mao Piseth to step in to say his colleague had fainted a few weeks before and lost his memory.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and