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Channy a 'prisoner of conscience'

Channy a 'prisoner of conscience'

channy.jpg
channy.jpg

Soldiers lead opposition MP Cheam Channy into military court on August 9. Minutes later, he would be convicted of fraud and organizing an illegal army, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

A

mnesty International has listed Cheam Channy as a "prisoner of conscience"

after the opposition parliamentarian was jailed for seven-years in what human rights

workers have called a "show trial."

Channy was convicted by a Military Tribunal August 9 of organizing an illegal armed

force for his role in a shadow defense cabinet known as Committee 14.

"Amnesty International is calling for his immediate and unconditional release,"

said Janice Beanlan, from the South East Asia team of Amnesty's International Secretariat,

in an August 11 email to the Post.

"Not only does [the case] highlight serious flaws in the administration of justice,

including an apparent lack of political will to conform to both domestic and international

laws, but it is also a chilling reminder of how far the authorities are willing to

go to stifle freedom of expression and association and political opposition,"

Beanlan wrote.

Channy is the only Cambodian considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty. They

are the latest international organization to condemn his conviction, saying it was

based on trumped up charges.

"With this verdict, the level of political repression in Cambodia has reached

new heights," said an Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) statement released

August 10.

"The purpose of the legal action against the two members of parliament, and

their party leader, was for the governing party to quash dissent by making it impossible

for legitimate opposition to function," AHRC wrote.

"A deep sense of fear and frustration has enveloped the country," said

the Hong Kong-based rights group.

On August 11, however, Prime Minister Hun Sen downplayed the local and international

backlash.

"[I ] confirm to the nation and our Cambodian people that our country has no

political crisis, the trial of this or that guy is just a matter between personal

and the legal procedures," Hun Sen said during a speech launching an economic

zone in Bavet, on the Vietnamese border.

Hun Sen dismissed concern over the leader of the opposition party, Sam Rainsy, who

fled in February after his parliamentary immunity was stripped along with that of

Channy and another party member, Chea Poch.

"Wherever you've been and whenever you come back, I do not know, because it

is a matter for the court," said Hun Sen. "It is not a headache [for me]."

Rainsy is currently in France. He is scheduled to return "around September 14,"

according to an August 11 email from him to the Post.

"When there is a storm, you have to take shelter and wait for the storm to subside,"

Rainsy wrote.

"In a messy country like present Cambodia, they call an 'illegal army' anything

that looks a little bit organized and works with some efficiency," he said regarding

the Channy case. "They would crack down on the Salvation Army if there were

such an organization here."

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, said SRP members were preparing to

write a letter to King Norodom Sihamoni to request a royal amnesty for Channy.

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