Cambodian Court Summons 59 Exiled Opposition Party Members to Prevent Their Return

cambodia-sam-rainsy-paris-video-nov-2019-crop.jpg In a screen grab of a video, Sam Rainsy speaks to supporters from his home in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2019.
Sam Rainsy's Facebook page

The court in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh Tuesday summoned 59 exiles affiliated with its banned opposition party to stand trial later this month on treason and incitement charges, in what critics told RFA was a politically motivated move to prevent their return to the country.

In summons posted Tuesday in front of the headquarters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the city’s deputy prosecutor Sen Heang called in 13 senior officials and 46 party members, all of whom have fled overseas to avoid punishment following the party’s legal dissolution in November 2017.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the opposition CNRP in November 2017, two months after the arrest of its leader Kem Sokha for his role in an alleged scheme to topple Hun Sen.

Included among the accused 13 senior party officials are self-exiled current interim party leader Sam Rainsy and his wife, deputy CNRP president and Cambodia’s former Minister of Women Affairs Mu Sochua, party parliamentarian Eng Chhai Eang and others.

Most of the other CNRP members were summoned to answer for their involvement in Sam Rainsy’s failed plan to return to Cambodia in 2019.

“Hun Sen is a coward. He asked the court to summon us, but he stopped Sam Rainsy’s flight and prevented other party leaders from coming to Cambodia,” Um Sam An, a senior party official told RFA’s Khmer Service Tuesday.

Sam Rainsy had tried to return on Nov. 9, 2019 to lead nonviolent protests against Hun Sen, urging Cambodian migrant workers abroad and members of the military to join him, but his plan to enter Cambodia from Thailand was thwarted when he was refused permission to board a Thai Airways plane in Paris.

Um Sam An also said that the CNRP leaders and activists would return to Cambodia willingly if the government would lift travel bans against them.

RFA attempted to contact Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Kuong for comment Tuesday, but he could not be reached.

But government spokesman Phay Siphan denied to RFA that the court summons was made at the government’s behest.

“This issue is not a government affair because it is a court summons. Each individual knows themselves what they should do. The government will not interfere in matters of the court,” he said, urging the accused party members find their own way to return to the country to defend themselves in court.

Political analyst Meas Nee said the summons falls in line with a strategy by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to use the court as a political tool to silence the opposition party.

“This is just another strategy to prevent the CNRP leaders from coming back,” he said.

Meanwhile the court also questioned Prumh Chantha, the wife of a CNRP member, who filed a complaint against local authorities for assaulting her son while he was in police custody in Phnom Penh’s Mean Chey district.

“My son speaks the truth. He was assaulted even though there were no bruises, but he said it hurt,” she said.

According to the complaint, her son was hit in the face and chest while handcuffed. She said that the police posted pictures of her son on social media while he was handcuffed.

RFA attempted to reach Mean Chey district’s police chief Meng Vimeandara for comment but were not successful. But Phnom Penh Police Spokesman San Sok Seiha previously denied any torture during the detention.

Ny Sokha of local rights group ADHOC urged the court to speed up the investigation to provide justice for the victim.

“If the police violate the law and get away with it, that’s an impunity,” he said.

“If the police committed a crime, they should be punished according to the law.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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