Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Disinformation appeals planned

Disinformation appeals planned

Disinformation appeals planned

INTERNATIONAL advocates are calling for the release of a local rights worker who was one of four people convicted of disinformation this week after what critics say was a flawed investigative process.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture condemned the conviction of Leang Sokchouen, whom the Takeo provincial court on Tuesday sentenced to two years in prison and fined 2 million riels (US$476). The rights groups said the trial was “marked by numerous procedural flaws as well as violations of fair trial provisions” spelled out in Cambodian and international law.

“This conviction once again highlights the lack of independence and impartiality of the courts, which are all too often used as a tool against the less powerful, rather than to uphold their rights,” Donna Guest, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific deputy director, was quoted as saying in the statement.

Leang Sokchouen, who is employed by local rights group Licadho, and three Khmer Krom men living in Takeo province were accused of distributing antigovernment leaflets earlier this year. Two accused – Thach Vannak, a former monk, and Thach Le, a motorbike-taxi driver – received the same sentences. A fourth person, Thach Khong Phoung, the plot’s alleged mastermind, was convicted in absentia and sentenced to three years in prison and fined 6 million riels (US$1,430).

The leaflets, which were found scattered in three Takeo districts in advance of the January 7 anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, asserted that the day should not be viewed as one of liberation, but as the day Cambodia became “abused and occupied” by Vietnam.

In reaching his decision, Judge Cheng Bunly said the leaflets were inappropriately critical of the government.

“These actions affect the national leaders and create unrest in society,” he said on Tuesday.

Thach Setha, president of the Kampuchea Krom Community, yesterday called the convictions “completely unjust and unacceptable”.

“I believe that the act of the court in convicting the three Khmer Krom people was under political influence,” he said.

Thach Setha said the four convicts were unlikely to have opposed the celebration of the January 7 anniversary because they were neither opposition activists nor part of a resistance movement aimed at overthrowing the government.

Though Thach Vannak and Thach Le were not represented by a lawyer during their one-day trial, Thach Setha said he would now look for lawyers to help them appeal against their convictions.

Leang Sokchouen’s lawyer, Ham Sunrith, said his client plans to appeal as well.

“My client has given me the right to arrange the filing of an appeal,” he said. “I hope that the Appeal Court will launch a hearing soon.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • State of emergency draft law set for NA

    A draft law aiming to place the Kingdom in a state of emergency amid the Covid-19 pandemic is set for a debate at the National Assembly (NA) after going through the Council of Ministers’ Standing Committee meeting led by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.