Wife of Detained Cambodian Opposition Activist Targeted in ‘Staged Accident’


2020-11-04
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khmer-wives2-081020.jpg Wives of Cambodian opposition party members held in Prey Sar Prison leave the EU embassy in Phnom Penh after meeting with embassy officials, Aug. 10, 2020.
RFA

The wife of a detained activist and former elected official with Cambodia’s banned opposition party was attacked by unknown assailants as part of a staged traffic accident meant to warn her off campaigning for her husband’s release, she said Wednesday, leaving her frightened and seriously injured.

Sok Bolyma, the wife of former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) commune councilor in Phnom Penh Khem Pheana, told RFA’s Khmer Service that three men drove a motorbike into her while she rode her own vehicle on a street in the capital on Tuesday, causing a collision.

Following the accident, the trio fled the scene, leaving her with a seriously injured foot, said the woman, who is the latest of at least 20 people affiliated with the CNRP to suffer attacks or beatings.

Sok Bolyma called the incident “yet another attempt by the Phnom Penh authorities” to stop her from taking part in a campaign to free her husband and “other political prisoners,” including at least 17 CNRP activists who have been accused or convicted of “incitement” after making comments critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership.

“I don’t feel safe now—this is very unjust to me,” she said.

“As the wife of a CNRP activist, I am scared to death. I am so hurt that my husband is being detained and I got attacked. Now, every day when I leave home, I don’t know whether I will live or die.”

Sok Bolyma urged authorities to investigate the incident and bring the suspects to justice.

The incident occurred weeks after Din Varin, secretary general of the CNRP’s executive committee and an elected councilor for Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, was hit in the head with a rock by an unidentified assailant on a motorbike while walking on the street after visiting a cafe, knocking him out and causing severe bleeding,

Around 20 CNRP activists and officials have been beaten since early 2020, mostly by motorbike-riding attackers targeting their heads. Assailants have used batons and bricks, and also their own vehicles against victims. None of the perpetrators have been arrested.

It also came a week after Hun Sen threatened family members—including the wife and children—of exiled CNRP parliamentarian Ho Vann who called for a protest outside China’s embassy over the country’s growing influence and control in its smaller Southeast Asian neighbor.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the opposition CNRP in November 2017, two months after the arrest of its leader Kem Sokha for his role in an alleged scheme to topple Hun Sen.

The ban on the CNRP, along with a wider crackdown on NGOs and the independent media, cleared the way for Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election.

‘Careless driving’

Contacted by RFA for comment, Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesman San Sok Seiha called Tuesday’s incident “purely a traffic accident” and blamed Sok Bolyma for careless driving.

“Nothing happened—she just made allegations against the authorities,” he said, adding that there is no evidence to prove that Sok Bolyma was attacked.

Sok Bolyma’s husband Khem Pheana was arrested in April on charges of “inciting soldiers to disobey orders” and “incitement to commit a felony.” He has been detained for seven months.

Soeung Sengkaruna, spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, told RFA he has noticed women who actively participate in the campaign to to release their husbands have increasingly been targeted in attacks. He said that in order to avoid criticism, the authorities must investigate Sok Bolyma’s accident and take legal action against the suspects.

“The victim should file a complaint with the authorities, so that they conduct an investigation,” he said.

“If authorities find that those involved intended to cause her harm, they should be arrested and prosecuted.”

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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