Cambodian political commentator Kim Sok flew to Helsinki with his daughter on Thursday after gaining political asylum in Finland, following weeks of being in hiding in Thailand under threat of arrest for his criticism of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We were assisted by the UN and IOM (International Organization for Migration) Thailand officials, who have seen us off at the Suvarnabhumi Airport. We will be landing in Finland this evening,” Kim Sok told RFA's Khmer Service by telephone from Bangkok’s international airport.
Kim Sok, 38, was jailed on Feb. 17, 2017, after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of implying that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had orchestrated the 2016 murder of popular political pundit Kem Ley.
Just days before he was gunned down on July 10, 2016, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service after his release on Aug. 17, 2018, Kim Sok said that Hun Sen’s CPP had done nothing to earn a landslide victory in July 29 national elections widely dismissed as unfair following the banning of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in November and arrest of its president, Kem Sokha, two months later.
On Aug. 29, Hun Sen warned Kim Sok that he would be rearrested and thrown back into prison if he fails to pay hefty fines both to him and to the government as part of the sentence he was handed for defamation in August 2017, and demanded that the social commentator stop criticizing how he runs the country.
The court had ordered him to pay 800 million riels (U.S. $200,000) to Hun Sen and 8 million riels (U.S. $2,000) to the state.
On Sept. 14, Judge Leang Samnat of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a warrant ordering police to locate and arrest Kim Sok on accusations of incitement and defamation related to statements he had made last year that were not covered in the original charge.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.