A former local official with Cambodia’s banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has fled his home in Tboung Khmum province following the arrest of a fellow official who had posted comments critical of the government on social media.
Ouk Phon, a former CNRP deputy director in Tboung Khmum’s Memot district, told RFA’s Khmer Service that he went into hiding on Monday after multiple police officers had “spied” on him at his home, and he feared for his safety.
Ouk Phon said he had not been involved in any political activities since Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, paving the way for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to steamroll a general election in July last year widely seen as unfree and unfair.
“I’ve done nothing—why did they spy on us,” he asked, adding that he had only met with local residents to celebrate the April 14-16 Khmer New Year.
“We only wished each other and enjoyed our feast together,” he said.
Ouk Phon said that he and other former CNRP officials are concerned about government reprisals after authorities arrested fellow former Memot district CNRP deputy director Su Yean at his home in Triek commune on Monday.
Su Yean’s wife, Srey Seat, told RFA that around 30 armed police officers arrested her husband “because he expressed political views.”
Before his arrest, Su Yean had posted comments to his Facebook page which accused the government of using voters as “political tools,” and shared videos and news reports of a demonstration against Hun Sen led by exiled CNRP officials in South Korea’s Gwangju city over the weekend.
Tboung Khmum Police Chief Pen Roth told RFA on Tuesday that police did not arrest Su Yean over his Facebook posts, but because the police department had received complaints from people in six provinces alleging that former CNRP official had “cursed them” and “committed fraud.”
“We sent him to the court already because we received complaints that he owed people money,” he said.
The Khmer Times on Tuesday quoted Theng Cheang, provincial court secretariat chief, as saying an investigating judge decided to detain Su Yean on charges of “incitement to commit felony,” and that he is now held in the provincial prison.
Su Yean faces six months to two years in jail if convicted of the charge, the report said.
Soeung Sen Karuna, a spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, told RFA that authorities must stop monitoring members of the CNRP.
He noted that several former opposition supporters have been arrested for criticizing the government, but no government supporters have been taken into custody for criticizing former CNRP officials.
“Countless pro-government supporters have attacked the opposition party, but authorities never take any action,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.