Authorities in Cambodia’s Battambang province Thursday questioned six activists connected with the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), alleging they violated a 2017 Supreme Court order that dissolved the opposition party.
The six are part of a group of 35 CNRP activists summoned recently by the Battambang Provincial Court, including five that were questioned last week.
The CNRP director for Battambang province, Chea Chiv, told RFA’s Khmer Service in an interview that the prosecutor questioned him and the other five activists for about an hour, because they were seen in public eating together and because they had in social media posts expressed support for party leaders Sam Rainsy, who lives in self-imposed exile in France, and Kem Sokha, who is under de-facto house arrest.
“The court violated [my rights as] a citizen,” said Chea Chiv.
“I quit politics already and I was just expressing my political views. I don’t have any faith in the judicial system here in Cambodia because this institution is under the influence of the government,” he said.
While the six were being questioned, hundreds of citizens rallied in their support outside Battambang Provincial Courthouse. Many had traveled from neighboring Banteay Meanchy and Pursat provinces.
Chhnang Baraing, a supporter from Banteay Meanchy, said that there were 20 in his group and they spent their own money to rent a truck to support the CNRP activists. He said he does not like the way the government is treating the opposition party right now, and believes they should have the right to exist.
“I came here because I don’t want [the CNRP activists] to feel that they are alone. I want to encourage them,” he said.
Yat Phyrum, also from Banteay Meachey, said that the questioning was an injustice because the activists were robbed of their commune positions and now they have to face the court.
“As [I am] a youth, I like justice. I don’t think it is right to dissolve the CNRP,” he said.
Several road blocks were set up to prevent the supporters from gaining access to the courthouse.
Ying Mengly, a provincial coordinator for the rights group Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), said he was disappointed that the police prevented supporters from entering the courthouse to show their support. He said the authorities are afraid that the supporters might explode with anger during questioning.
The coordinator said he was concerned that the prosecution will try to present the case so that it will lead to the detention for the six activists.
“The prosecutor wants to find who the mastermind of their meetings is,” he said.
He said the court’s case against the six and the other CNRP activists was an interruption of their lives.
Similar legal motions against CNRP activists are taking place in other provinces. In Kampong Thom province another 35 were summoned for questioning regarding their show of support for the return of Sam Rainsy to Cambodia and social media comments supporting the CNRP and its leaders.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.