Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fear of arrest drove Adhoc chief abroad



Fear of arrest drove Adhoc chief abroad

Adhoc director Thun Saray speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
Adhoc director Thun Saray speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Pha Lina

Fear of arrest drove Adhoc chief abroad

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, told the Post late Tuesday that he had no option but to leave Cambodia in May following “direct threats” from the Anti-Corruption Unit in April to arrest him if he continued to oppose the criminal charges against five current and former human rights officials.

Saray, who did not appear before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday to testify in an ongoing bribery case against four Adhoc staffers and one Adhoc staffer-turned-election official, said he moved to Canada fearing a risk to his safety following threats to arrest him.

“I was threatened with arrest and an ‘expansion of the investigation to more persons if I tried to react strongly more against this detention’,” he said, via email.

Following the arrest of Adhoc staffers Lem Mony, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Nay Vanda, and National Election Committee deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya, Saray met with ACU head Om Yentieng, who said he was attempting to “limit and keep this case small”.

“I will send only the first batch of evidence to the court, but if you try to fight back, then we will send the second and we also have a third,” Yentieng told Saray in front of reporters at the time. The ACU chief could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Saray maintained that the five jailed officials were innocent but that he chose to remain silent and leave Cambodia in order to prevent an escalation of the situation. “This was extensively discussed by Adhoc and partners – including diplomatic missions – and we came to the conclusion that it was not safe for me to stay in Cambodia,” he said.

This decision to remain silent was extended to the organisation, he said, resulting in reduced press interactions and media releases in the months following the April arrests.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager for Licadho, said Saray’s concern for his safety was understandable given the persecution of Adhoc and other human rights officials.

“Human rights defenders work in accordance with the law, but if they are being arrested because of their work, it is a threat,” he added.

MOST VIEWED

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants