Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fresh calls for Sokha’s release




Fresh calls for Sokha’s release

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Opposition leader Kem Sokha is escorted by police officials following his midnight arrest in September. AFP

Fresh calls for Sokha’s release

With Cambodia’s former opposition leader Kem Sokha languishing in a remote jail for more than three months now, international organisations and parliamentarians have renewed their calls for his immediate release and for the reversal of the controversial dissolution of his Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Under the aegis of the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), 158 politicians from around the world yesterday sent an open letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for Sokha’s release.

Sokha was slapped with a widely decried charge of “treason” over a 2013 speech in which he mentions receiving political advice from the US. His party – the only legitimate competitor to the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party – was dissolved last month for allegedly fomenting a foreign-backed “revolution”.

“[T]aking note of the evidence submitted thus far by the government regarding his alleged guilt, we have serious concerns regarding the validity of the charges against him,” the parliamentarians’ letter reads.

They also called on the government to immediately “reverse the decision to dissolve the CNRP” and reinstate all CNRP leaders on all levels. The government has already moved to hastily redistribute the CNRP’s seats at the national to minor parties, and is preparing to reallocate the vast majority of its local seats to the CPP.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said APHR’s demands were an attempt to put pressure on Cambodia and to interfere in its internal affairs. “That stands in contrast to the Asean charter and the UN charter,” he said. “You should take a clear look at the constitution. Does the constitution of those countries [inform them they] control Cambodia or not?”

In their own letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, 42 ousted CNRP parliamentarians – including self-exiled former opposition leader Sam Rainsy – expressed on Thursday their concerns about the CNRP’s dissolution and the subsequent redistribution of its National Assembly seats.

“Contrary to the most fundamental principles of multiparty democracy, the seats have been stolen from those who were legitimately elected to them,” they wrote, asking for the 1991 Paris Peace Accord signatories to reconvene.

Forty-four of the CNRP’s 55 seats were given to three parties that, together, won less than 5 percent of the vote in 2013. The CNRP won 44 percent. The CNRP’s remaining 11 seats went to the CPP, which now holds 79 seats in the 123-seat Assembly.

Former opposition Deputy President Mu Sochua said free and fair elections, scheduled for July, could still take place if freedom of expression, assembly and the press were restored. “Our structure is intact; the people are determined to vote for positive change they have been waiting for [for more than] 30 years,” she said in a message.

Meanwhile, five pro-CPP Cambodian associations in Australia sent a letter to the country’s Senate and Parliament supporting the dissolution of the CNRP, ahead of planned pro-opposition protests there today.

“We reiterate once again that the resolution of the Supreme Court on 16 November 2017, was conducted in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the letter reads.

Chan Pichra, deputy leader of one of the associations, maintained only a fraction of Cambodian-Australians were protesting. But Va Malina, one of the organisers of the pro-opposition protest, said he had never heard of the pro-CPP associations before and expected around 500 people.

Sochua, meanwhile, is slated to speak at a rally in front of Parliament in Canberra today before meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop.

According to Sochua, a petition will be submitted today to Bishop and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling for sanctions against the premier and high-ranking military officials.

Additional reporting by Ben Sokhean and Andrew Nachemson

MOST VIEWED

  • Body of woman killed in Bangkok returns

    The Cambodian embassy in Thailand is working to repatriate the body of a casino dealer who was shot dead in Bangkok on Monday night. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong told The Post on Wednesday that officials are preparing paperwork to

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • Bill covering dress code draws ire

    Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ouk Kim Lek responded on Tuesday to criticism concerning a draft law that would ban women from wearing overly revealing clothing, saying that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process. Several

  • What’s the deal with Cambodia and China’s FTA?

    Cambodia’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China kicks off a series of FTAs in future but for now, critics wonder what else the parties could bring to the table apart from what it already has to date By the end of this year, Cambodia

  • Cambodia, Vietnam exchange border maps amid criticism

    Cambodia and Vietnam formally exchanged border maps on Monday despite criticism from former members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that the Kingdom is losing land in the deal. The two countries said agreement on the border is 84 per cent complete, leaving