Cambodian Prisoners Used as Bargaining Chips

2017-01-05
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In these undated file photos, Hun Sen ( right ) and Sam Rainsy speak to reporters after a meeting at the National Assembly.
In these undated file photos, Hun Sen ( right ) and Sam Rainsy speak to reporters after a meeting at the National Assembly.
RFA/Yeang Socheametta

High ranking officials with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) attempted to use four imprisoned human rights activists and a jailed election official as bargaining chips in their effort to split the opposition party, RFA’s Khmer Service has learned.

According to a draft of the letter dated Dec. 7, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha was given a statement approved by the CPP in which he would denounce and expel from the party anyone who attacked the family, spouse and children of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

CNRP president Sam Rainsy told RFA that talks aimed at freeing the prisoners failed when Kem Sokha did not agree to follow the CPP’s order that he says was aimed at destroying the CNRP leadership, and it giving authorities an excuse to leave them in jail.

The draft of the letter obtained by RFA reads:

“On behalf of the CNRP and on my own behalf, I would like to vehemently condemn any ignorant individuals who have insulted the spouse of Samdech Hun Sen, saying that she was the mistress of former leader of Vietnam Mr. Le Doc Tho; and those ignorant individuals who also accused the eldest son of Samdech Hun Sen, Mr. Hun Manet, of being the biological son of {the late Vietnamese leader] Mr. Le Doc Tho.

Such insulting sayings cannot be acceptable. On behalf of the CNRP and myself, I would like to publicly condemn those insulting groups. They are neither different from gangsters, nor equal to animal or evil beings that are more dangerous than poisonous animals; by behaving in such a way that destroys and looks down on leaders of their own race.

In the event that those ignorant individuals are members of the CNRP, the party is entitled to expel them from the party.

Respectfully to: - Uncle [Kem Sokha] to kindly review this draft; the higher echelons have already approved the contents. From me, Soy Sopheap.”

Soy Sopheap is the director of Deum Ampil Media Center that is widely viewed as being allied with the CPP, although Soy Sopheap says they are independent.

Once the statement was issued, then evidence that Sam Rainsy, who has been living in exile since late 2015, insulted the prime minister’s family would surface and the CNRP would be forced to expel him, Sam Rainsy said.

Intrigue at the party

“One day, he [Mr. Hun Sen] will use the contents of this statement to let the CNRP or Mr. Kem Sokha himself turn to fight against me, by accusing me of saying something insulting,” Sam Rainsy told RFA. “Afterwards [Hun Sen would use] a number of his CNRP insiders to come out and distort the story against me.”

Sam Rainsy left Cambodia last year after he was given a two-year prison sentence in a defamation case, leading the CNRP to name Kem Sokha its acting president. His conviction in the defamation case is but one of the court actions taken by Cambodia’s government or the ruling Cambodian People’s party against him.

Earlier this year Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered authorities to prevent Sam Rainsy from entering the country.

Lim Mony, Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, all workers for ADHOC (the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association) and National Election Commission (NEC) deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya were arrested in April.

They are accused of attempting to pay hush money to Kem Sokha’s purported mistress in the government’s wide-ranging probe into the alleged affair.

Paternity allegations and pardons

In December Kem Sokha and a local Cambodia National Rescue Party official Seang Chet were granted royal pardons in the case against the CNRP leader, but the other five people accused in the case remain in prison.

They were pardoned after Prime Minister Hun Sen, who also heads the ruling CPP, asked King Norodom Sihamoni to issue them.

Hun Sen was bothered by accusations posted on Facebook lasts year by a CNRP official living the U.S questioning the paternity of the prime minister’s son Hun Manet.

After the posts appeared, Hun Sen accused the CNRP of secretly engineering the effort and warned that he would not let the CNRP rest in peace, despite an immediate statement from the opposition party disowning the comments.

On May 16, the CNRP dismissed the party official and Sam Rainsy expressed “deep regret” over the posts in a June 14 letter to Hun Sen.

While pardons for the “Kem Sokha Five,” were expected soon afterwards, they have not been forthcoming.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng told reporters on Dec. 7 that he expected the five to be freed in late 2016 or early 2017, but Sar Kheng dismissed questions about their release, saying it was under the purview of the courts.

“We still have plans for the talks, but we don’t know when yet since we have a lot of works to do early this year," he told RFA on Jan 2."

Reported by Sokunthea Hong for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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