PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s vow on Monday to arrest more opposition activists on insurrection charges, two Cambodia National Rescue Party members were charged with insurrection yesterday and sent to Prey Sar prison.
A third activist, Yea Thong, was arrested last night and also charged with insurrection. He is being held at the municipal police station and will be sent to Prey Sar prison today.
The two activists, Yim Kimhour, and Noeun Chantra, were arrested Tuesday. They were questioned by investigating judge Keo Mony for four hours Wednesday morning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
The investigating judge officially decided to charge them with insurrection committed on July 15 of last year.
Mr. Kimhour said to reporters after his court questioning that his arrest is politically motivated arrest and has no basis in fact.
“I want all related institutions to help me,” he said. “Their accusations about me are totally wrong.”
He added that he and another activist were charged after they were seen in videos of the protest that turned violent last year at central Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park.
“They showed us the video of the violence, but it is not real, we do not know anything,” Mr. Kimhour protested.
Mr. Chantra said: “Actually, we joined in the demonstration, but we were not involved in the violence. I just join like usual [in a peaceful demonstration].”
Defense lawyer Som Sokong said the court should not detain them at Prey Sar because it leaves them unable to provide for their families.
“Both of them are Tuk Tuk drivers, so no one can support their children who are studying,” Mr. Sokong said.
He told Khmer Times by phone that the court should allow them to be released on bail. “This detention is not necessary,” he said.
Mr. Sokong said the judge showed his client pictures and videos of the protest.
“My client denied those pictures are real, because he said that they were edited,” he said. Looking ahead to a trial, the lawyer said: “They [pictures and videos] cannot become specific evidence.”
Ou Chanrith, a CNRP lawmaker, claimed that the activists were not involved in any crime. He said their detention was based on political issues.
“This shows that it is a completely politically motivated case, because at that time, we were just demonstrating, calling on the government to reopen the Freedom Park,” he said. “We did not riot or do something against the government at all.”
Two weeks ago, 11 CNRP activists were jailed on insurrection charges. Three received 20-year sentences. The other eight were given seven years behind bars.
Yesterday, the party protested the arrests of even more members.
“The CNRP calls for the release of the activists immediately without any conditions and a quick stop to the use of the judiciary system to prosecute or arrest activists,” a CNRP statement read.
In response, Sok Ey San, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), said that the opposition prefers to turn criminal cases into political issues.
“This case is related to the insurrection on July 15, 2014. The municipal court just follows the criminal procedures and laws of the Kingdom,” Mr. Ey San said.
Prime Minister Comment
During a speech on Monday at the inauguration of the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge in Takhmao, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for more arrests in connection with the “insurrection” during the violent clashes at Freedom Park.
The CPP spokesman said: “Even if Samdech Hun Sen did not comment on more arrests of activists during the insurrection, the court still would have to crackdown against them.”
More Activists Wanted
Investigating judge Keo Mony issued arrest warrants for five activists after Mr. Hun Sen’s comments on Monday. Three have been detained. Two are still at large.
“I didn’t know in advance which guys would be arrested,” Mr. Chanrith, the CNRP lawmaker, said.
Mr. Sokong, the defense lawyer, said the court did not reveal the identities of the five suspects for fear they would flee the country.
Fragile Culture of Dialogue
Mr. Chanrith warned that the decision to arrest and charge more CNRP activists will damage the culture of dialogue.
“The government should not threaten or bully to resolve the problems,” he said, adding that the CNRP will appeal to the CPP to continue discussions based on the ‘Culture of Dialogue’ rather than arrests and threats.
In response to Mr. Chanrith’s comments, Mr. Ey San said, “The political deal or culture of dialogue cannot lead to discussions about the problem to pave the way to break the criminal case.”