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Opposition asks for visit to WFP staffer

Opposition asks for visit to WFP staffer

PARLIAMENTARIANS from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have requested permission to visit an employee of the United Nations World Food Programme who was jailed earlier this month on
incitement charges.

Seng Kunnaka, who worked in a WFP warehouse in Russei Keo district, was arrested on December 18 and convicted of criminal incitement in a rapid-fire trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court barely 48 hours later.

In a letter sent to court president Chiv Keng on Tuesday, SRP Secretary General Ke Sovannaroth requested that five lawmakers be allowed to visit Seng Kunnaka at the city’s Prey Sar prison tomorrow. The letter followed an earlier one from December 23, which the SRP claims went unanswered.

“The SRP would like to ask for a new allowance from Your Excellency the president to allow an SRP parliamentarian delegation to visit Mr Seng Kunnaka on Friday,” the letter read.

The arrest of Seng Kunnaka – who was detained after passing out copies of a web article critical of senior government officials – has prompted an outcry from local and international rights groups.

In a statement on December 23, the International Federation for Human Rights, a Paris-based organisation, called for the UN system to “stand up for one of its own” and condemn the arrest and internment of Seng Kunnaka.

“With this latest deliberate assault on freedom of expression, the Cambodian authorities are becoming ever bolder in their repression and the democratic space is getting ever smaller,” FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said in the statement.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that there was no good reason to prohibit parliamentarians from meeting prisoners, especially given the “political” nature of Seng Kunnaka’s case.

“We must be allowed to go; there is nothing to prevent us from going,” he said.

Chiv Keng declined to comment yesterday. Court deputy president Ke Sakhan said he had not seen the SRP’s letter, but that if the party made an official request, there was no reason it should be refused.