Police raid home of opposition party member who refused switch to ruling party

Even though the opposition Candlelight Party won’t be on this month’s ballot, activists are still being harassed.
By RFA Khmer
2023.07.12
Police raid home of opposition party member who refused switch to ruling party “I have not committed any wrongdoing,” says Khem Monykosal, the Candlelight Party’s chief for Cambodia’s Pailin province.
Credit: Khem Monykosal Facebook

About 30 police officers raided the Phnom Penh home of an outspoken opposition party member in what appears to be retaliation for not defecting to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party ahead of the July 23 election.

Khem Monykosal, the Candlelight Party’s chief for Pailin province, told Radio Free Asia that he wasn’t home on Tuesday when police conducted the two-hour search. Police left a handwritten note that said a mobile phone was taken by order of a prosecutor.

“I have not committed any wrongdoing. Why do they pursue me from Pailin province to Phnom Penh?” Khem said. “They neither showed the search warrant nor stated any reasons.”

The raid comes just two weeks before a parliamentary election that Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party is expected to sweep.

The Candlelight Party – Cambodia’s main opposition party and the only one capable of mounting a challenge to the CPP – has been blocked from appearing on the ballot. The National Election Committee ruled in May that it submitted inadequate paperwork. 

Even so, Hun Sen and his government have continued to pursue Candlelight Party supporters in recent months. He’s persuaded dozens of opposition activists to switch their allegiance to the CPP, while others have been threatened with legal action.

Pailin proposal

Four ruling party officials who hold senior positions at Pailin’s provincial health department recently asked Khem Monykosal to join the CPP in exchange for reinstatement to a civil servant position at the department, he told RFA.

When he declined, the CPP officials threatened to have two pending court cases reviewed, Khem said.

One case relates to a Facebook post during the COVID-19 lockdown in which he criticized local quarantine officers. In the other case, he said on Facebook that a village chief in Pailin had tried to persuade Candlelight Party activists not to work as election observers during the 2022 commune election. 

The Pailin court has yet to take any action on the cases.

ENG_KMH_CandlelightRaid_07122023.2.jpg
Candlelight Party member Thol Samnang was arrested in Bangkok last week after criticizing Hun Sen and the Cambodia People’s Party on Facebook in the weeks leading up to his departure from the country, his mother told RFA. Credit: Thol Samnang Facebook

The lack of a warrant for Tuesday’s raid of Khem’s home was a flagrant violation of the law, ADHOC President Ny Sokha said.

“A court warrant should have been shown and read aloud before such a search,” he told RFA. “They cannot violate this procedure.” 

RFA attempted to reach Boeung Raing administrative police station chief Bun Pros, Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesman San Sokseyha and National Police General Commissariat spokesman Chhay Kimkhoeun for comment on the raid on Wednesday. 

Khem told RFA that he is taking refuge at a safe location and remains a firm supporter of the opposition.

‘I still feel terrified’

A Candlelight Party member who was arrested last week by Thai authorities on the streets of Bangkok had also posted critical comments on Facebook about Hun Sen and the CPP, and was also the target of a home raid.

Thol Samnang fled Cambodia on July 4, a day after police and government authorities visited his home in Kandal province seeking to detain him without a warrant. 

The 34-year-old was arrested on July 7 by men in plainclothes as he made his way to the office of the United Nations refugee agency. He was being held at an immigration detention center in the Thai capital and could face deportation to Cambodia.

“Hun Sen is taking an opportunity of the transition government of Thailand to collude with his old conspirators to arrest and deport democrats who are hiding in Thailand,” said Meng Sotheara, an opposition activist who lives in Thailand.

So Dara, a former bodyguard of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, said he is worried he will also be arrested by Thai authorities and deported to Cambodia, where he could face a long imprisonment.

“I still feel terrified and dare not even leave my room,” he told RFA. “All other political refugees dare not go out either.”     

Translated by Sovannarith Keo and Sok Ry Sum. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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