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Rights Groups Critical of Court Summons

Cambodia National Rescue Party Deputy President Kem Sokha greets supporters during a rally in Phnom Penh, file photo.
Cambodia National Rescue Party Deputy President Kem Sokha greets supporters during a rally in Phnom Penh, file photo.

Cambodian human rights workers have criticized the courts summons of opposition leaders, saying it is a politicization of the justice system, while pressure continues for Cambodia to hold a recall election.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party is meant to be in negotiations with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in order to resolve the longstanding political deadlock after July’s election. But rights groups say the courts summons was meant to put pressure on the opposition ahead of talks.

Ny Chakrya, head investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the summons was “politically motivated.”

“Politicians should stop using the court,” he said. “The mechanism of negotiation should be used for the national interest.”

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, said using the courts to pressure the opposition “will cause the political situation to worsen,” said

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the summons was legal and was not related to political negotiations.

Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, told VOA Khmer ahead of appearing in court on Tuesday that he would not bow to pressure from the court.

“It helps promote my face,” he said. “And the international community is paying more attention.”

The court summons comes after a violent crackdown on opposition and labor protesters, which left five people dead and which have begun to galvanize anti-government sentiment in Cambodia and abroad.

In Sacramento, the capital of California, on Monday, anti-government protesters gathered in front of the state capital to add to demands on the Cambodian government that a recall election be held and Prime Minister Hun Sen step down.

“I’ve taken part in the protest today to demand justice and real democracy for Cambodia,” said venerable monk Song Yoeung Ratana. “And especially to end the summary execution of people. I’ve seen that perpetrators are never brought to justice under the regime of Hun Sen, like the recent killing of workers.”

“If this leader continues in power, we won’t have the freedom to criticize the government, or the freedom of expression or assembly,” Kea Ry, one of the organizers, told VOA Khmer. “The law is in Hun Sen’s mouth. Hun Sen uses the law to put pressure on people, but he can do anything at will. Even when he violates the constitution, he is not wrong, and all the other people are wrong.”