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U.S. Expresses Concern Over Kem Ley Anniversary Arrests


A woman paid her respect to slain political analyst Kem Ley on the third anniversary of his death at his home in Leay Bor commune in Takeo province's Tram Kam district, Cambodia, July 7, 2019. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

In a statement on Monday, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh said that “all Cambodians should be able to exercise their rights to express their views freely and assemble peacefully.”

The US government is “concerned” about the recent arrests of Kung Raiya and Suong Neak Poan saying that the Cambodian government has used “baseless practice and politically-motivated charges to harass” its citizens for commemorating the life of slain political analyst Kem Ley.

In a statement obtained by VOA Khmer on Monday, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh said that “all Cambodians should be able to exercise their rights to express their views freely and assemble peacefully.”

“We have consistently urged the Cambodian government to remove undue political restrictions on all persons in Cambodia, release those prisoners who have been arbitrarily or unlawfully detained, and uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said the US Embassy in the statement.

Last week, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Kung Raiya and Suong Neak Poan, with “incitement to commit a felony” because they joined a commemoration of the third anniversary of Kem Ley's assassination. The charge would put the two men in jail from six months up to two years if found guilty.

Chin Malin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, defended the arrests by the Cambodian authorities and further mocked the U.S. statement.

“It’s better for the U.S. to provide legal assistance if they think that those arrested did not commit any wrong-doing as charged,” he said, adding that the U.S. Embassy should notify any institutions that instructed the two men to commit what they have done [social instability].

Rhona Smith, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, in a post on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia Facebook page, said that “restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression must be limited and strictly defined and mere gestures or statements of support for public figures should not fall within such limitations.”

Meanwhile, a group of 87 civil society organizations and associations in Cambodia called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of both Raiya and Paon and to drop all charges against them.

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