RFA journalist Chun Chanboth, who was scheduled to appear in court tomorrow over accusations of concealing his identity to gain access to Prey Sar prison, will not return to Cambodia for the hearing due to concerns over his safety and the politicised nature of the case, the organisation has confirmed.
Chanboth – who is facing charges for allegedly attempting to sneak in to Prey Sar with an opposition delegation in order to interview a politically sensitive prisoner – was in Thailand for a weekend trip, with the US-based broadcaster confirming that he had been advised by RFA’s leadership to not return to Cambodia.
The journalist – who used his given name, Huot Vuthy, while seeking entry to the prison – is the deputy director of RFA’s Khmer service. It has become clear that authorities have chosen to politicise their case against him with the aim of distracting the Cambodian people during this highly contested election season,” an RFA statement reads.
“It has also become clear that Vuthy Huot’s safety in Cambodia cannot be guaranteed nor is there any guarantee that the rule of law would be fairly applied to him."
The statement comes as speculation, fuelled by government-leaning news site Fresh News, swirled that the reporter had fled the country and was headed to the United States.
RFA went on to maintain that Chanboth had not committed a crime and that, as a well-known journalist, had not sought to conceal his identity. “By pursuing this case against him, despite widespread opinion that his alleged actions do not merit prosecution, authorities have only underscored the poor state of free press in Cambodia,” the statement reads.