Nineteen land activists and opposition supporters will be freed from detention on Monday, a day after the finalization of political negotiations between the ruling party and opposition.
The detainees, including opposition activist and US citizen Meach Sovannara, will be released following a hearing, while 11 housing rights activists, who were arrested last year, will have to withdraw an appeal at the Supreme Court to receive a royal pardon, Choung Chou Ngy, a lawyer for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said.
This all comes a day after the National Assembly approved a new National Election Committee, which took months of negotiations between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
“It is a political compromise,” Choung Chou Ngy said. “In sum, the political situation has improved, and both CNRP’s leaders and the prime minister found a good resolution. So the prisoners, who are involved in politics, must be freed.”
Heng Sokha, daughter of Nget Khun, a housing rights activist from the Boeugn Kak neighborhood of Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer the activists would withdraw a complaint with authorities, following advice from Rescue Party lawmakers.
“We didn’t expect that they would release them before Khmer New Year,” she added. “They suddenly asked them to have thumbprints to be released. This is weird and exciting.”
CPP spokesman Chhim Phal Vorun said the release was possible because the “political situation” in Cambodia has improved, but he said political parties in Cambodia have no power to influence the judiciary.
The timing of the release, however, suggests otherwise.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for the rights group Licadho, welcomed the release, but he urged an end to the use of judicial detentions for political purposes.
“We, civil society, would request an end to such practices,” he said. “We support the negotiation between the two parties, like they have done at the National Assembly, to settle political issues, rather than taking people as hostages.”