Jailed Analyst Kim Sok Emerges From Election Hunger Strike in Weakened State

kimsok-06062017.jpg Cambodian political analyst Kim Sok (C) walks with his supporters as he heads to the municipal courthouse in Phnom Penh, Feb. 17, 2017.

Jailed political commentator Kim Sok has emerged weakened from a seven-day hunger strike he staged from prison to encourage Cambodians to vote in weekend commune elections, his younger brother said on Tuesday.

Kim Sok, who has been in jail since Fenruary, staged a hunger strike from May 29 to election day on June 4,  Kim Seng told RFA's Khmer Service.

“He started having meals, but he said he could not eat well like before due to a stomachache since he ate nothing for seven days," said Kim Seng.

"As for his stance for [the nation], he won’t change,” Kim Seng added.

On May 28, Kim Sok issued a handwritten letter bearing his thumbprint, which was seen by RFA, saying he would skip eating for the sake of social justice and to call on Cambodia's citizens to use their rights to vote for change of commune chiefs in nationwide polls.

Kim Sok’s lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, said he did not know how his client conducted the hunger strike.

“I have not met with him since the day he announced staging this hunger strike. I just know that he staged it for seven days,” he told RFA.

Slightly more than 7 million Cambodians, or 89.52 percent of registered voters, turned out for commune council polls on Sunday, a record turnout in a test of public opinion ahead of 2018 general elections.

Preliminary results released by political parties showed slightly more than 51 percent of the popular vote going to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and around 46 percent going to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Kim Sok was arrested Feb. 17 and charged with inciting social chaos and defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen during a radio interview with RFA’s Khmer Service last month. He is being held in Prey Sar Prison on the outskirts of the capital Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen sued the analyst for allegedly accusing the CPP of orchestrating the July 2016 murder of popular political pundit Kem Ley, but Kim Sok has told RFA that what he said about the killing was simply a reflection of what many Cambodians believe.

Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in Phnom Penh.

Although authorities charged a former soldier, identified as Oueth Ang, with the murder, many in Cambodia don’t believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the man over a debt.

Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on a RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.

On Dec. 23 the Phnom Penh court quietly closed its investigation into the murder case without revealing its findings and in a final hearing on March 1, Oueth Ang confessed to killing Kem Ley.

Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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