With the threat of being investigated by a Korean “special intelligence” unit hanging over their heads, three Cambodian migrant workers in South Korea have made a public apology for burning a picture of Prime Minister Hun Sen and broadcasting the images on Facebook two years ago.
In a video posted yesterday by Cambodian Ambassador to South Korea Suth Dina, Chum Marady, 26; Bun Thon, 22; and Em Rat, 24, are seen sitting with the diplomat seeking clemency for their actions, which occurred during an anti-Hun Sen protest in South Korea in early 2014.
“Now I have had a change of heart when I think about it again,” said Marady, the sole protester to speak in the video. “It is my fault, I’m sorry and I want the Cambodian government’s leader to accept my apology.”
The picture burning in Korea was in response to the shooting of five protesters on Veng Sreng Boulevard, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in January 2014, after security forces opened fire on rock-throwing garment workers demanding a rise to the county’s minimum wage.
Contacted yesterday, Marady reiterated his apology, and said the group of three had come forward after Ambassador Dina posted a public message on Facebook last Thursday, warning that he was working with a special South Korean unit to find illegal migrants in Korea who were behind anti-government protests.
Dina has long-warned migrants in Korea to stay away from anti-government protests and has previously claimed to be working with Korean authorities to break-up networks of activists he says are being led by illegal workers.
In the video, Dina says those who had come forward over the public burning would not face further action.
“They want to show their heart to the Cambodian people and the Cambodian government for their fault in burning the picture of Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2014, in order for Cambodian government to be lenient on them,” he says.
Dina declined to comment further yesterday, but in a post accompanying the video, said he was working with the Korean authorities to find two more protesters involved in the picture burning.
In November, Dina warned expatriates to stay away from a reception for visiting Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders or face “arrest and deportation”.
The Korean Embassy declined to comment yesterday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul could not be reached.
But Yi Sinorn, the president of a CNRP-aligned youth group in Korea, said that the ambassador was drumming up fear to limit freedom of expression.
“I know this story clearly and no Korean authorities have arrested activist Cambodian workers in Korea,” he said. “You know in Korea, everyone has freedom of speech.”