A recently released political prisoner in Cambodia has submitted a complaint to the United Nations, saying that even though he has completed his 18-month sentence, government agents are closely watching him, he told RFA.
Kong Mas, a member of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was sentenced in Oct. 2019 for for “insulting the government” and “incitement to commit a crime” based on Facebook comments critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government. He had predicted—correctly—that Cambodia would be the target of European Union trade sanctions for rollbacks on democracy and human rights.
Kong Mas, who completed his sentence last month, told RFA’s Khmer Service that authorities in southeastern Svay Rieng province are continuing to monitor his activities and even told his parents not to allow him to stay in their house.
“The reason I submitted my complaint to the UN High Commissioner is because I do not trust the governmental authorities because we have seen relentless persecution against activists,” he said after sending the letter to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Phnom Penh Monday.
Kong Mas stressed that he is not alone in facing intense government scrutiny.
“Activists have been physically ambushed or attacked and the authorities have never been able to identify the perpetrators, so we are concerned for our safety,” he added.
Kong Mas also asked the UN in his letter to talk with the Cambodian government to “end persecution against opposition activists at the grassroot.”
“Particularly they should stop the local police and security forces from constantly putting pressure on activists, such as watching and intimidating us all the time,” he said.
Kong Mas said in addition to accepting his letter of complaint, the UN Office has asked many questions and told him that they would remain in contact with him.
Responding to questioning about the complaint, National Police Commissioner Spokesperson Chhay Kim Kheourn told RFA that the local authorities are not specifically watching Kong Mas, they merely sent officers on patrol to protect the security and safety of the public. He suggested the activists are overly concerned and should feel more secure with patrols keeping them safe.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, two months after leader Kem Sokha’s arrest, for its role in opposition leader’s alleged scheme. The ban, along with a wider crackdown on NGOs and the independent media, paved the way for Hun Sen’s CPP to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Eugene Whong.