The US embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday reiterated calls on the government to drop espionage charges against two former Radio Free Asia reporters and restore their full rights and freedoms.
In a Facebook post to mark the second anniversary of the arrest of Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, the embassy said their arrest, detention, and prolonged case have undermined media freedom and dissuaded others from conducting important work.
“Dropping charges against these journalists and restoring their full rights and freedoms would correct an injustice, honor Cambodia’s constitution, and signal a needed commitment to the important role an independent media plays in a democracy,” the US embassy said.
Mr Chhin and Mr Sothearin were arrested in November 2017 and charged with “illegally providing information to a foreign state”.
The pair were released on bail and placed under the court supervision in August 2018 after spending about nine months in prison.
After hearings in July and August, their espionage case was ordered to be reinvestigated.
Mr Chhin yesterday urged the government and the court to expedite the investigation and free him and Mr Sothearin so that they could work and feed their families.
“It has been two years after the arrest. We have suffered and have no clear course of life. We could not land a job as we remain charged,” Mr Chhin said.
In a statement yesterday, the Cambodian Journalists Alliance decried the espionage charges as baseless.
“The ongoing prosecution against the two former RFA reporters is part of continuing intimidation against all journalists working in Cambodia,” its statement said.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said the judge found their case lacked information and evidences, leading to no issuance of the verdict and needed to be re-investigated.
“It’s their rights to make the calls and demands. It is the judge’s rights to investigate the case as long as he finds it helpful to gather more information. We cannot drop charges or change a decision without trial or evidences,” Mr Malin said.