Two members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party have been charged on Tuesday for allegedly insulting the King, with a former colleague claiming the charges are more likely related to their participation in recent Kem Sokha events.
Hang Seng and Kong Bunheang, both former provincial members from Battambang, were charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, after being arrested over the weekend. They have been charged under the controversial lèse-majesté legal provision, which criminalizes the “insult” of the King, but neither the court nor police have presented any evidence to support the charges.
Kuch Kimlong, a spokesperson for the Phnom Penh court, confirmed the charges against the two former CNRP members but would not comment on what they said or where they said it. VOA Khmer could not find any insulting posts on their Facebook accounts.
“They both were in pre-trial detention for insulting the King,” he said.
Sat Kimsan, Battambang police chief, refused to comment on the case, directing queries to the National Police spokesperson.
Chhay Kimkhoeun, a spokesperson for the National Police, claimed the police had enough evidence against the two detainees but again refused to divulge any details of how they insulted the King.
“We arrested them because we have evidence that they insulted the King,” he said. “We dare to handcuff people because the law allows us.”
Dim Saroeun, another former CNRP Battambang official, said Kong Bunheang and Hang Seng attended an event with the former CNRP president in September, with the former also attending a flood relief event with Kem Sokha last week.
“It is a politically motivated case since they are well-known and active,” he said. “They rarely post on Facebook and if they post it is only about their family.”
Kem Sokha has been making provincial visits in the last few months, especially on religious holidays, and more recently to provide humanitarian aid for flood victims.
Sen Si, the wife of Kong Bunheang, said her husband was arrested Saturday night around 8 p.m. and that the family was not given any information about the arrest.
“My husband has never used any insulting words against the King as they have accused him,” she said. “He is a good and honest person. Everyone loves him.”
Hoeun Sarin, Hang Seng’s wife, said her husband had been invited to build a garden at the local police station, after which he was questioned by the police, handcuffed, and sent to Phnom Penh.
“I think it is unfair because he was asked to go [for a job] and then they arrested him. It is a lie,” she said. “They should have told us they wanted to question him.”
Am Sam Ath, deputy director at rights group Licadho, said their cases did not seem to be red-handed crimes so the police should have informed the accused of why they were being questioned and produced warrants for the arrest.
“It is not in accordance with the procedures when the [police] give dishonest information [for the arrest],” he said.
VOA Khmer also accessed an order by Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Seng Heang, signed on October 19, summoning nine senior CNRP members to appear for trial on November 11 for their alleged involvement in an attempted coup.
The government has recently increased the arrests of former opposition members while also arresting youth and environmental activists for expressing their opinions and dissent.