Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Drop journalists’ ‘espionage’ charges, urges rights group

Drop journalists’ ‘espionage’ charges, urges rights group

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Yeang Socheameta (left, wearing glasses) and Oun Chhin (right, speaking to the press). Human Rights Watch has called on Cambodian authorities to drop espionage charges. Heng Chivoan

Drop journalists’ ‘espionage’ charges, urges rights group

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement on Wednesday urging Cambodian authorities to drop espionage charges which it deemed politically motivated against two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalists and free them of court supervision.

But Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin dismissed the statement as a violation of the Cambodian court’s jurisdiction.

Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin were arrested in November 2017 and were later charged with the “Provision of Information Undermining National Defence to a Foreign State” under Article 445 of the Criminal Code. The appeal court is to hear their case on Friday.

Brad Adams, the executive director of HRW’s Asia Division, urged the court to drop all charges against the duo.

“The two former RFA journalists are victims of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s unending attack on media outlets that dare air critical reports about the government."

“There’s no basis for the ludicrous charges against these two reporters or for forcing them into judicial supervision. The court should drop both the charges and supervision arrangements immediately,” he said in the statement.

Malin told The Post that HRW’s statement was predictable and would not hold sway as the Kingdom’s courts were independent.

“I don’t think Human Rights Watch’s appeal would have any influence on Cambodia’s courts. It [HRW] should instead send legal experts to help the two former RFA reporters in their defence and present evidence that would help relieve them of the legal burden. That would be better,” he said.

In response to HRW’ statement that the espionage charges against Chhin and Sothearin are ludicrous and groundless, Malin said the remarks were made to discredit the government and courts.

“As a matter of fact, it is [Adams’] statement that is baseless and intended to undermine the efforts of the Cambodian government and courts,” he said.

On Thursday, Sothearin stood firm against the charges. He said the court’s decision to put him and Chhin under judicial supervision, which bars them from leaving the country and requires them to appear and report to judicial police when needed is a “serious suppression of their rights and freedom”.

“It is very difficult for me, even when I want to go to my hometown to see my elderly parents, I am not allowed . . . The court’s supervision separates me from my family,” said Sothearin, who claimed to be an ethnic Cambodian from Tra Vinh province’s Cau Ke district in Kampuchea Krom, the southwestern part of Vietnam.

Sothearin and Chhin were arrested by Cambodian authorities on November 14, 2017, two days after RFA closed its office in Phnom Penh.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen warmly welcomed by president Biden

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, as ASEAN chair, and other ASEAN leaders were warmly welcomed by US president Joe Biden as the ASEAN-US summit May 12-13 kicked off today in Washington. “This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen invites US president to attend summit in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen personally invited US President Joe Biden to attend the ASEAN-US Summit which is set to be held in Cambodia in November, as ASEAN and the US are expected to upgrade their strategic partnership to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, according to Prime

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub