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Six former opposition activists fearing arrest seek asylum

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
The six former CNRP activists fled the country last week. Supplied

A former opposition party activist has revealed that six CNRP activists have fled the country and are now seeking asylum after they were charged by Kampong Speu Provincial Court with incitement.

Mounh Sarath, a former CNRP provincial chief who himself is in exile in Thailand, yesterday said Teang Sean, Kun Mach, Hong Theng, Chum Sophorn, Kem Tola and Hem Channy were charged with incitement after making public statements in December and January to support the return of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Mr Sarath, who is now in charge of aiding former CNRP members fleeing to Thailand, said all six fled the country last week over fears of arrest.

According to court documents obtained by Khmer Times yesterday, the six were ordered to appear before a judge to be questioned.

Mr Sarath said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has accepted their asylum applications and is currently reviewing their case.

“The six desire protection from the UN in order to ensure their safety and to be clear from prosecution by the authorities,” he said. “They were suffering from intimidation and are calling for their charges to be dropped.”

Mr Sarath did not reveal the location of the six. However, he said that about 100 former CNRP members and activists have fled to Thailand before and after the party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017.

Ms Mach, who spoke from an undisclosed location, said she did not want to leave her home country. She said that the political situation in the Kingdom had made it difficult for her to live safely.

“I’ve applied for asylum at the UN office in Thailand because the provincial court issued summons for me to appear next week,” she said. “I wish to return to the country and continue my political life when the situation has returned to normal.”

Representatives of the UN office of the High Commissioner for Refugees could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan downplayed the six’s move to seek asylum as an excuse to move to a third country, and suggested that the former opposition has an organised effort to falsely find asylum for its former members.

“It is like a business; it’s almost like human trafficking, I would say,” he said. “There is an opposition group who waits to help them file the application and make sure that they meet requirements for asylum.”

“These six people are supporters of Rainsy,” Mr Siphan added. “They violated the law in order to seek political asylum like some other former opposition members have done before.”

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