Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to look into the possibility of releasing opposition activists who were jailed for allegedly colluding with Sam Rainsy to stage a coup last week.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of Thai Bun Rong company in Kampot province, Mr Hun Sen asked the Justice Ministry to work with municipal and provincial courts to free the activists, noting that they were duped by Rainsy and his colleagues.
“Those people will be only be released on bail if they make requests by themselves or through family members and lawyers. Otherwise we cannot release them,” he said. “We are doing this to unite the nation and maintain security and peace because they [the activists] were actually misled.”
However, Mr Hun Sen noted that the activists will be placed under court supervision pending investigation.
National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun yesterday said police arrested a total of 73 opposition activists, but detained only 71.
“Our police will follow the court’s decision. Two people have been released on bail after they confessed and denounced Rainsy’s coup plot and only 71 are now placed in pre-trial detention,” he said.
Mr Hun Sen also called on the opposition supporters who fled overseas in fear of being arrested to return to the Kingdom, assuring them that they will be safe.
“The ministry must also work with court prosecutors to revoke arrest warrants against those who have fled in order to allow them to come back,” he said. “Those who have not been wanted and have fled should also come back.”
“If you are arrested, please go to my Facebook page and report it by yourself or by your relatives. I would like to clarify that this only applies to cases related to a coup plot. Other court cases such as incitement will not be included,” Mr Hun Sen noted.
However, he stressed that he will not sign a letter requesting amnesty for Rainsy.
“You [Rainsy] have to remember that your crime shall not be tolerated. The only person who has the right to propose for amnesty to the King is Hun Sen, but Hun Sen will not sign an amnesty request for the same person,” he said. “You must understand that Hun Sen will lead until 2028.”
Rainsy was once pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni, with the approval of Mr Hun Sen, prior to the 2013 election which paved the way for him to return to the Kingdom and take part in the polls.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Justice Ministry urged prosecutors of municipal and all provincial courts to implement Mr Hun Sen’s instruction and release the activists. The ministry also requested prosecutors withdraw arrest warrants issued against those who fled.
Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said the arrested opposition activists were deceived by Rainsy.
“Everyone knows that the coup plot was just deceitful propaganda created by Rainsy. He used his supporters as tools,” he noted. “We will work on their release.”
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday lauded the move.
“They should not have been arrested in the first place. They were victims of a political game between Rainsy and Mr Hun Sen. I am thankful that Mr Hun Sen decided to release these people,” he said.
Kun Mach, an opposition activist who fled to Thailand in March over fear of arrest, said she is now considering returning to the Kingdom.
“I am now discussing with other activists about returning. We did not want to flee but we had no choice. I have been here in Thailand for nine months,” Ms Mach said. “I miss my children and my family and want to return home to earn money to feed them.”