Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jailed opposition figures appeal for holiday pardons

Jailed opposition figures appeal for holiday pardons

Former lawmakers Mao Monyvann, Ou Chanrath and Kong Kimhak speak to the media after visiting jailed opposition figures on Thursday.
Former lawmakers Mao Monyvann, Ou Chanrath and Kong Kimhak speak to the media after visiting jailed opposition figures on Thursday.

Jailed opposition figures appeal for holiday pardons

A group of 15 opposition-affiliated prisoners appealed to the government for Khmer New Year pardons on Thursday, despite the prime minister’s insistence that no more politicians will be offered such reprieves.

It is customary for the King to pardon prisoners during Khmer New Year, which begins April 14, usually at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

Mao Monyvann, one of three former CNRP parliamentarians who visited the former opposition prisoners on Thursday at Prey Sar, said they were deserving of pardons.

“Some of the prisoners have served two-thirds and they have a final verdict. It is enough to pardon them so they can return to their families for Khmer New Year,” Monyvann said.

Former opposition Senator Um Sam An and 13 others were among those visited by Monyvann, Ou Chanrath and Kong Kimhak. One of the petitioners, former National Assembly candidate Meach Sovannara, was barred from visitations for allegedly communicating with the outside world from prison.

Sam An, a dual American citizen, was arrested in April 2016 for sharing mistranslated border documents on Facebook. Fellow senator, French-Cambodian Hong Sok Hour, was arrested for the same crime in August 2015 but was released early last year.

The others were arrested for leading or participating in “an insurrectionary movement” due to their involvement in a 2014 opposition protest that turned violent.

Human rights group Licadho previously labelled the 15 “political prisoners”. Its website has since rebranded them “prisoners of interest”.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved in November of last year, following an accusation that the party was attempting to topple the government. Then-party president Kem Sokha was arrested in September for treason.

In March, Hun Sen said pardons would not be forthcoming for Sokha or Sam An. A few weeks later, he extended this promise to all CNRP prisoners.

“I won’t pardon for anyone. Be informed. It’s ended,” he said.

Despite this, Chanrath, the former CNRP lawmaker, still pleaded for mercy on behalf of the men, many of whom were youth activists at the time of their arrests.

“Most of them are young and they are not cruel people who killed or robbed anyone,” he said. “They are just prisoners of conscience.”

Sok Eysan, a spokesman for the ruling party, said the government would not fall for the CNRP’s “trap”.

“He pardoned Hong Sok Hour because he recognised his mistake,” he said. “Then the opposition says it is because of political pressure.”

After Sok Hour’s release, former opposition leader Sam Rainsy claimed the government relented under pressure from the French, which caused Hun Sen to bristle. Both the French Embassy and Sok Hour himself have declined to confirm.

Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Thailand’s Naresuan University, said it was clear that Hun Sen intended to “bury” all opposition.

“Even after the upcoming election, Hun Sen will likely refrain from pardoning jailed opponents as a warning to any future politicos who would dare to oppose him,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • No more Africa travel ban but new rules for arrivals

    The Ministry of Health has decided to lift the ban on travellers from or who have travelled through 10 African countries and instead issued a set of standard operating procedures to manage passenger arrivals at Cambodia’s international airports. The 10 African countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho,

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • PM blasts Vietnam general over Covid claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 6 expressed dismay after Vietnamese general Hoang Xuan Chien, formerly in charge of Vietnam’s border defences, claimed that Cambodia was a source of Covid-19 transmissions to the country. Speaking at the opening ceremony for National Road 11 connecting Prey Veng