Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Groups call for charges against activists to be dropped

Groups call for charges against activists to be dropped

Moeun Tola speaks to reporters outside the Phnom penh Municipal Court after being questioned in November.
Moeun Tola speaks to reporters outside the Phnom penh Municipal Court after being questioned in November. Heng Chivoan

Groups call for charges against activists to be dropped

A group of 35 international labour and human rights advocacy groups yesterday called for charges against a trio of Cambodian civil society activists to be dropped.

“We, the undersigned global unions and international human rights and workers’ rights organizations, call for the charges against Cambodian human rights defender Moeun Tola to be immediately dropped,” reads the statement, signed by groups including Human Rights Watch and the Clean Clothes Campaign.

While the groups focus mostly on Tola, a prominent labour rights activist, they also urged the dismissal of charges for his ostensible “co-defendants”, activist monk But Buntenh and media advocate Pa Nguon Teang.

The trio was accused of misappropriating funds meant for the funeral of slain political activist Kem Ley. They were ordered sent to pre-trial detention, but have not returned to Cambodia from abroad to face the charges.

Rights groups and observers have criticised the charges as politically motivated, and Ley’s family has repeatedly maintained the innocence of the accused. The complaint was filed by Cambodia Youth Party head Pich Sros, who has no relationship to the Ley family, but has filed numerous lawsuits seemingly benefiting the ruling party, including an initial complaint against the Cambodia National Rescue Party, after which the party was dissolved.

“It is well known that Cambodia’s courts are not independent, but rather are driven by the political interests of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. These charges constitute an attempt to silence and punish one of the country’s leading independent voices for worker rights,” the statement says.

“This case is emblematic of broader deterioration in the labor rights and human rights climate in Cambodia,” the statement continued.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chhin Malin brushed off the appeals on the trio’s behalf, calling the statement “politically motivated” and saying no institutions can interfere with Cambodia’s internal court affairs.

“Their concern and their political message will not influence the court’s procedure,” he said.

Malin continued that civil society organisations are welcome to assist on “technical” matters, such as providing Tola with a legal team, and accused the organisations of supporting “that political party”, a likely reference to the dissolved CNRP.

“Don’t think about your country’s laws, just look at our Criminal Code and criminal procedure,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Reports: Rainsy barred from Jakarta flight

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party’s announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy

  • Government studying EU’s preliminary report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Wednesday said the government was studying the EU Commission’s preliminary report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom that could lead to a suspension of access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement. The

  • Phnom Penh International Airport wins award as passenger traffic soars

    The Phnom Penh International Airport has been awarded Best Asia Pacific Regional Airport 2019 for its sustained high growth in passenger traffic in recent years. The award was presented by the Capa Centre for Aviation (Capa) – a world-leading and trusted organisation that provides market intelligence to

  • Gov’t: Rainsy’s ‘coup plot’ a failure

    The government on Wednesday commended the Kingdom’s security forces for thwarting the attempted “coup plot” by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy through his announced return to Cambodia on November 9. The comments came as Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue

  • PM responds to Rainsy ticket claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday expressed frustration over claims by Sam Rainsy that he had altered Rainsy’s ticket with Thai Airways to prevent him boarding his November 7 flight to Thailand, from where he had claimed he would enter Cambodia. Hun Sen made the

  • Chinese tourists lead international visitors

    Chinese tourists again topped the list of foreign visitors to Cambodia during the first nine months of this year, with the Ministry of Tourism on Wednesday reporting a 30 per cent increase on the same period last year. The Kingdom received 4.81 million international tourists in that