An activist supporting Cambodia’s banned opposition party has been detained on charges of violating forest protection laws, though his wife says the arrest was politically motivated.
Nem Nath was taken in by police in Pursat province on Thursday, his wife Srey Saoroth told RFA’s Khmer Service on Friday. She said the authorities unfairly targeted her husband because he supports the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), the main opposition of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) until the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in 2017.
“He’s a CNRP supporter. He is known publicly for supporting them,” she said.
“[He] didn’t incite any villagers to commit any crimes. I want the court to release my husband because he is the bread winner. We can’t live without him,” she said.
RFA was unsuccessful in an attempt to reach a spokesman of the provincial court in Pursat for comment.
Kem Kimsrun, the Pursat provincial coordinator for the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), confirmed the arrest, saying the case was definitely politically motivated because Nem Nath was not involved in any illegal encroachment on public land.
“The activist is with the CNRP and he refused to defect to the CPP. The arrest has put the family under undue hardship,” he said.
The coordinator said that in the past Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered local police in Veal Veng district to monitor CNRP activities in the district after he accused them of engaging in politics despite the party’s ban.
“It is [no more] than political intimidation for the sake of the ruling party. But doing this won’t help the government,” said Kem Kimsrun.
RFA reported on May 29 that two other CNRP activists in Pursat had been arrested on similar charges the day before.
CNRP activist eludes authorities in Sihanoukville
Another CNRP activist, Mao Bunsreang, escaped from his home in Cambodia’s southwestern Sihanoukville province after a police officer tipped him off that they were planning to arrest him. The activist’s wife, Kea Sisokunthea said police wanted to arrest him because he criticized the government on Facebook.
“The comments he wrote were constructive, and we never thought anything like this would happen because of them. He never committed any crimes,” she said. “He only offered constructive criticism.”
Sihanoukville Police Chief Chuon Narin denied that police had any plans to arrest the activist. He said Mao Bunsreang is only known as a former member of the CNRP, and if he hadn’t commit any crimes, he would be fine.
“I didn’t receive any information. He must have claimed all that information by himself,” he said.
Cheap Sotheary, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association’s (ADHOC) provincial coordinator for Sihanoukville said, “People in general are critical. It falls within freedom of expression.”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.