The Appeal Court on Wednesday denied the bail request of union leader Rong Chhun who has been charged with “incitement to cause social unrest” in relation to a border issue.
Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, was arrested on the night of July 31 after he went to meet residents in Trapaing Phlong commune, in Tbong Khmum province’s Ponhea Kraek district.
A resident claimed Cambodia had lost land to Vietnam and the Vietnamese authorities had pushed residents 200m into Cambodian land.
On August 1, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged him with incitement to cause social unrest under Article 495 of the Criminal Code.
The Appeal Court’s Wednesday decision came as roughly 20 civil society activists gathered outside the court appealing for his release and the dropping of all charges against him.
Chuong Chou Ngy, one of Chhun’s lawyers, said outside the courtroom after a two-hour hearing that he and his two co-lawyers – Lor Chunthy and Sam Sokong – will discuss with Chhun whether to take the case to the Supreme Court.
“The Appeal Court ruling is not correct because it harms the rights and freedom of Rong Chhun,” he said, adding the decision amounted to the courts’ support for judicial police’s “arbitrary” act.
This, he said, is because Chhun’s arrest ran counter to the Criminal Code that prohibits the arrest of suspects at night, unless in case of flagrante delicto (in blazing offence) – a legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offence.
Presiding judge Khun Leang Meng could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Chou Ngy emphasised that the Appeal Court had tried Chhun in two cases at the same time. The first case is the detention warrant and the second is the case of the bail request.
He cited Chhun as telling the judge he had done nothing wrong when he went to check border poles Nº 114-119 in Tbong Khmum province as a representative of the Cambodia Watchdog Council (CWC).
After the field visit, Chhun posted his findings on social media, urging the government to strengthen territorial integrity and return the 60ha in question to the Cambodian people.
The authorities then accused him of inciting protests as his social media posts implied Vietnam had encroached on Cambodia’s land.
Chou Ngy said: “He went to see the area because he wanted to find out the truth after residents complained that Cambodia had lost about 60ha [to Vietnam].
“Chhun told the court he didn’t cause social unrest at all. His actions are meant only to serve society.”