The two Licadho employees detained for their alleged part in the Sihanoukville waste
dump scandal were finally released on bail 21 January, in what rights workers said
was an important and surprising victory for Cambodian justice.
But even as the appeal for bail was being approved, two more men suspected of causing
criminal damage during the demonstrations were arrested in Sihan-oukville.
Kong Vuthy, 34, and Ung Long, 29, were arrested on Jan 19 and 20 respectively, and
accused of robbery and damage to property. Neither man has a lawyer.
Rights workers also report that Keo Kim San, 45, and 15-year-old Sam Sophal were
released Jan 21 from the local prison. Minors, by law, cannot be held for longer
than one month. Eight men are still in jail in connection with the demonstrations
against the toxic dumping.
Phnom Penh's Court of Appeal overturned the Sihanoukville Court's earlier refusal
of pre-trial release for the pair January 20, saying that the arrest of the employees
Lawyer Chea Dara, who is representing Licadho's Kim Sen, said in court that there
had been no arrest warrants shown and no reason given for the arrest. In addition,
Licadho had complained earlier that evidence was withheld from the lawyers, and that
other procedural errors had rendered the whole process illegal.
"I'm so happy", said Dr Kek Galabru, President of Licadho, as the judge
delivered his verdict. "Now we still have to work hard for the trial, but it's
better now that they are outside the prison"
Sen and co-defendant Meas Minear, who were not present in court, were released Thursday
morning [Jan 21]. The men were originally denied bail by the court because officials
said they would try to persuade witnesses not to testify, according to the prosecutor
The men are accused of damage to public property and robbery during the waste dump
demonstrations. and legal action against them is still pending. Licadho and other
rights groups maintain that the men were simply informing protesters of their rights.
Lean Chinda, lawyer for Meas Minear, said that she had not expected the verdict.
"I did not think that the court would follow the law," she said outside
the courtroom. "This means that they actually focused on the lawyers' speeches,
whereas in Sihanoukville, they didn't listen".
Dr Galabru was sure that the committee set up by Ouk Vithun, Minister of Justice,
which investigated the case independently and recommended that the arrests were illegal,
played an important role in their release. "It is a very good sign that the
Minister of Justice would like to reform the system," she said. The trial of
the two is expected later this year.