Cambodian authorities arrested a member of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Monday, seizing him as he returned home from working in the fields and taking him away wearing only a sarong despite pleas by his ill and bedridden wife that he be allowed to dress, sources said.
Khum Kan was taken into custody at around 1:00 p.m. by about 20 police officers who had surrounded his house in Mondulkiri province’s Keo Siema district and never showed a warrant for his arrest, his wife Morn Peoun told RFA’s Khmer Service on Monday.
“He was dressed only in his sarong, and I begged them to let him dress properly first, but they refused and took him away,” she said. “There was nothing I could do.”
“Please help me. I can’t get up from my bed, and my children are crying so much now. I am poor and have no money, so I can’t go anywhere for help,” she said.
Reached for comment, Mondulkiri provincial police commissioner Lok Sokha told RFA he did not know why Khum Kan had been taken into custody, adding that he would ask the officer in charge of the arrest.
“I don’t know yet. I’m in a meeting now, but I will let you know,” he said.
Repeated attempts to call Lok Sokha back for further information rang unanswered.
Speaking to RFA, Seoung Sen Karona, spokesman for the human rights group Adhoc, said that in a democratic nation with respect for the rule of law, Khum Kan and other CNRP party members now held by police on questionable charges would never have been arrested.
“It’s regrettable that the authorities in charge don’t enforce or promote respect for human rights. The recent arrests seem to have disregarded due process, which seriously affects the rights and freedom of the people,” he said.
“Civil society groups consistently say that this is a political conflict, and not about the implementation of the law,” he said.
Authorities in Cambodia have stepped up their harassment of CNRP activists and supporters since August, when acting party leader Sam Rainsy announced he would return to Cambodia on Nov. 9, calling on supporters and members of Cambodia’s armed forces to join him in a restoration of democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
Around 57 CNRP activists and supporters are now believed to be held in the country’s jails, mostly without a warrant, sources said, and 190 have been summoned to appear in court related to their support of Sam Rainsy’s plan to return next month.
Sam Rainsy has been living in self-imposed exile since 2015 to avoid a string of what he calls politically motivated convictions and charges, and Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017 for its role in an alleged plot to topple the government.
The ban on the political opposition, along with a wider crackdown by Hun Sen on NGOs and the independent media, paved 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.
Hun Sen and other leaders in his government have vowed to arrest the CNRP chief as soon as he sets foot inside Cambodia.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Richard Finney.