An appellate court in Cambodia Monday denied the bail request of 10 officials of the banned opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party who were jailed in January on charges of being complicit in treason.
The chief of the appellate council, Sous Sam Arth, said the continued detention of the 10 is necessary for the investigation.
An attorney representing the CNRP officials condemned the decision.
“For my clients, the court’s judgment this afternoon is unacceptable and unfair,” Sam Sok Kong, who represents several of the defendants, told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“They are all ordinary people who have no influence [over anyone] that could obstruct [justice] or create obstacles to their investigation.”
In September 2017 CNRP President Kem Sokha was arrested over an alleged plot to overthrow the government and the party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November that year for its supposed role in the scheme.
The move to ban the CNRP was part of a wider crackdown by Hun Sen on the political opposition, NGOs, and the independent media that paved the way for his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election.
A few among the ten-opposition officials are Sok Chantha, Nhem Vien, Chun Chan, Khut Chreb, Keo Thai and Khem Pheana. Along with the treason charge, they are accused of inciting the army to disobey orders from superiors and other crimes. They all are in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.
Sam Sok Kong said that he will visit his 10 clients in the prison to discuss their legal options to file an appeal.
Sam Chenda, the wife of Keo Thai, told RFA her family was disappointed with the court’s decision.
“My husband did nothing wrong, but the court committed injustice to him. It is really painful to my family,” she said.
Seoung Sen Karona of the local rights organization ADHOC said the 10 detainees have legitimate rights and reasons to be on bail. He said the court’s rejection will backfire because it will convince the public that the 10 are political prisoners.
”If the political situation continues like this, the [opposition] political activists will be endlessly persecuted. So political persecution will only subside only when the political heat cools down,” he said.
Eng Chhai Eang, Deputy President of CNRP condemned the decision.
“No Cambodian is surprised at all by Hun Sen’s aggressive and tyrannical behavior. There is nothing new about it. He used to be a senior cadre of the Khmer Rouge so he is used to persecuting and terrifying people. It is in his nature. Period,” said the deputy president.
“More people are speaking up against his dictatorship. As Hun Sen gets more paranoid he continues to round up more innocent and desperate people. However, no tyrant can rule eternally. His regime will collapse. It is just a matter of time when people rise up to hold Hun Sen accountable for abusing human rights and undermining democracy,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
Since the beginning of the year nearly 20 CNRP opposition officials or activists were arrested and thrown in prison, most without arrest warrants.
During the same period, 17 former and active CNRP officials and supporters were beaten or otherwise attacked from behind by unidentified men, who have yet to be identified by the police.
Prime Minister Hun Sen last week publicly threatened that the arrests will continue as long as exiled active-CNRP President Sam Rainsy continues to incite people inside Cambodia by encouraging them not to pay off their debts to the banks and microfinance institutions.
Sam Rainsy recently said that poor people with debts, who are unable to pay their debts because of the economic impact of COVID-19, should not sell their land or home to get money to pay back their debtors.
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