Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - RFA ‘spies’ released on bail

RFA ‘spies’ released on bail

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Former Radio Free Asia reporter Yeang Sothearin (centre) is congratulated after his release from Prey Sar prison on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

RFA ‘spies’ released on bail

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday freed on bail, two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporters, who were charged with espionage.

Oun Chhin, 49, and Yeang Sochea Meta (Sothearin), 35, were arrested by the Meanchey district authorities on November 14, last year, and spent eight months in Prey Sar Prison.

Sothearin and Oun Chhin were arrested on suspicion of filing stories for the Washington-based radio station.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced them to jail on two charges –“espionage under Article 445 of the Criminal Code” and an additional charge of “producing pornography”.

They were held under pre-trial detention, and if convicted, could face a 15-year jail term for supplying information to foreign agencies, which undermines national security.

The two RFA Khmer Service reporters joined a list of activists who were released in recent days, including social analyst Kim Sok on August 17 and Tep Vanny, the Boeung Kak land activist on August 20.

Human rights observers lauded their release and described it as a “positive development” taking place in the Kingdom.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Former RFA reporters Oun Chhin (centre, back) and Yeang Socheameta (left in blue shirt) are escorted by officials after being detained for questioning in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.

“Actually the two should not have been charged and detained since the beginning. However, we welcome and are happy with this positive development.

“We expect other human rights, land and political activists who are being detained will be released subsequently,” said Chak Sopheap, the director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

After stepping out of prison at about 6pm yesterday, Meta looked frail after spending months in the tough jail environment but managed a smile when his family members came to take him home.

He said: “Now I have a painful backbone and pain around my waist.”

Meta said the release does not mean complete freedom for both Chhin and himself, as they were released on bail and under court surveillance.

“I will try to ask the court to drop our charges because we did not work for Radio Free Asia since it closed down in Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that it will be his next move after leaving prison.

The RFA shut its Phnom Penh bureau last September.

Commenting after his release, Chhin said he does not have any serious health problems except minor a skin itch.

He described the eight months in prison as similar to ‘life in hell’. “Nothing happier than living with family members and relatives,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • LPG gas explosion injures 13 people, including foreigners, in Siem Reap

    An explosion on Wednesday at a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) car and tuk-tuk refuelling station in Siem Reap city has left 13 people, including an American and a Briton, suffering burns. The seven most severely burned, including a provincial police officer, were sent to a Thai

  • Over 100 Chinese nationals to be deported for online scam

    The Ministry of Interior is planning to deport 128 Chinese nationals after they were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in an online money extortion scam. Y Sokhy, the head of the Department of Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime, told The Post

  • More than 800 people test positive for HIV in 2018

    The National Aids Authority (NAA) said more than 800 people tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) last year, joining over 76,000 others aged between 15 and 49 in the Kingdom already infected with the virus. The spread of HIV/AIDS in the Kingdom is showing few signs of

  • Rainsy vow to return on Nov 9 dismissed as ‘political warfare’

    An announcement from the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that its “acting president” Sam Rainsy would return to the Kingdom on November 9 was dismissed on Sunday as “political warfare”. The CNRP made the announcement on Friday after a permanent committee meeting chaired by