A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

CNRP pols ‘separated’ in jail

Senator Hong Sok Hour is escorted out of the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh earlier this year before being transported back to Prey Sar prison.
Senator Hong Sok Hour is escorted out of the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh earlier this year before being transported back to Prey Sar prison. Pha Lina

CNRP pols ‘separated’ in jail
Tue, 19 April 2016 ppp
Meas Sokchea

Prey Sar prison authorities are denying three senior opposition politicians, incarcerated on charges widely considered politically motivated, the right to meet within the complex, the men’s lawyer claimed yesterday.

Despite other inmates being able to mix in the grounds during recreation, Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Um Sam An, arrested last week, and opposition official Meach Sovannara and Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour, who were jailed last year, were being restricted from seeing each other, CNRP lawyer Sam Sokong said yesterday.

“In short, they do not have time to meet each other except when they meet by chance when the lawyers invite them to meet,” Sokong said yesterday.

Calling it an abuse of their rights, Sokong said the men were being kept at different locations and were monitored by guards when they attempted to move about the prison.

The situation was yesterday corroborated by a source within the prison, who said Sovannara and Sam An, both dual Cambodian-American citizens, were housed in rooms B14 and A41, respectively, while Sok Hour, who also holds French citizenship, was detained in A52.

Spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons Sorn Keo said that though he did not know the details of the arrangements, their isolation in different areas was merely procedure.

“I just want to say that in the prisons, there are no political prisoners,” Keo said.

“The detainees being detained currently in Cambodia are all penal prisoners, but political prisoners, there are none.”

Following a recent visit to the country, however, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith expressed concern that the law in the Kingdom was being used as a “political tool rather than a legal tool prosecuting justice”.

And on the heels of Sam An’s arrest, 13 NGOs accused the government of using the courts for the “relentless persecution of the political opposition”.

Sixteen members of the CNRP are currently in prison. Sovannara, and 10 others, were convicted over anti-government protests in 2014 that turned violent.

Three more activists were arrested last year in relation to that incident.

Sok Hour was seized by armed police last August for allegedly posting a “fake” border treaty with Vietnam on Facebook and awaits further progress in his trial for fraud and incitement.

Sam An, seized in Siem Reap last week after returning from exile in the United States, also raised the government’s ire by criticising their handling of the Vietnam border issue and has been charged with incitement offences.

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