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At Least 74 Opposition Activists and Members Released After Hun Sen Directive


Former CNRP officials are released from Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh at 7:00pm on Friday, November 15, 2019. (Courtesy of Ma Chettra)

Justice Ministry spokesperson maintained that the release of 74 people had nothing to do with the EU Commission’s EBA report.

Following Hun Sen’s directive to court officials on Thursday, at least 74 Cambodia National Rescue Party activists and members were released on bail as of Sunday evening, many of them jailed for allegedly aiding opposition leader Sam Rainsy in a coup plot.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Hun Sen directed judicial officials to release opposition activists and members, though reports suggest some non-CNRP, high profile detainees have also been released on bail. Human rights workers and CNRP lawyers confirmed that 74 people had been released on bail as of Sunday.

This includes CNRP former officials, security guards at the party headquarters and grassroots activists from across the country. This included arrests not linked to the CNRP, such as youth activist Suong Neak Poan who was released on bail Friday, after being arrested in July for participating in a memorial service for slain political commentator Kem Ley.

Four former CNRP officials are released from Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh at 7:00pm on Friday, November 15, 2019. (Courtesy of Ma Chettra)
Four former CNRP officials are released from Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh at 7:00pm on Friday, November 15, 2019. (Courtesy of Ma Chettra)

Those released on bail were arrested in the run up to opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s planned return to Cambodia on November 9. They were arrested for allegedly aiding a coup plot, the government’s characterization of the planned return of Sam Rainsy.

Hun Sen on Thursday said that these people had been misled by Sam Rainsy and that he was releasing them out of compassion and not under pressure from external sources. The releases came days after the European Commission completed a preliminary report looking at the country’s human rights record.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Chin Malin said the government had been made aware that the opposition members and activists had been tricked into helping overthrow the government. This is why there was a request from the government to give them bail, though the court would continue to investigate the charges.

“For charges to be dropped or not, it relies on the courts. It relies on further investigation procedures,” he said.

He maintained that the release of 74 people had nothing to do with the EU Commission’s report.

Soeng Sen Karuna, senior human rights staffer at Adhoc, said that giving people bail was not akin to freeing them, because they were still under investigation, hampering their personal and professional lives.

“A real freedom means that they are not attached to any condition, meaning that they can exercise their freedom to participate in political activities or run any business without any condition. This is what we want to see.

The Cambodian government has till December 12 to respond to the EU Commission’s report, which has yet to be made public. However, Radio Free Asia accessed a leaked copy of the report that shows the commission raising serious concerns over the country’s human rights record.

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