Cambodian protester takes loan to pay fine following release from jail

Sam Sokha was given just one day to raise the money after being freed this week.
Cambodian protester takes loan to pay fine following release from jail Cambodian activist Sam Sokha is shown following her conviction in April 2018.

A Cambodian woman freed on Wednesday after serving four years in jail for posting a video of herself throwing a shoe at a poster of Prime Minister Hun Sen said she had taken out a loan to pay the fine imposed to secure her release.

Sam Sokha, a supporter of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested in Thailand in February 2018 by Thai authorities and forced to return to Cambodia despite having earlier been granted refugee status by the United Nations’ refugee agency.

The former factory worker had faced another six months in jail unless she could raise 10 million riels (U.S. $2,460) to pay the fine levied this week by the Kampong Speu Provincial Court. But after raising the money to pay the fine, the court refused to give her a receipt, she told RFA on Thursday.

“They could be afraid that I might post the receipt on social media to prove that they had pressured me to pay 10 million riel,” she said. She is still concerned for her security however as she now has no proof that she has paid her fine, she added.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of the rights group Licadho, said it is rare that a Cambodian court will force a person already released from jail to pay a fine, calling the provincial court’s move “very strict.” The court should have given Sam Sokha more time to pay the fine, he said.

“She was given only one day to raise 10 million riel. This was not nearly enough time, even if she had properties to sell,” he said.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said that Cambodian courts use excessive fines as a “roundabout way” to keep human rights activists like Sam Sokha behind bars.

“Her entire conviction was ludicrous to start with, and shows how Prime Minister Hun Sen treats the judicial system as his plaything to settle vendettas against anyone who dares ridicule him,” Robertson said.

“This additional six-month sentence is just adding insult to injury in a case where human rights have been abused from the start. But Sam Sokha can take heart that many people are still laughing every time they watch her video with her infamous shoe.”

Sam Sokha is one of dozens of CNRP supporters who have been detained for protests against the crackdown on the party by Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 35 years.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017 in a move that allowed the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to win all 125 seats in Parliament in a July 2018 election and drew U.S. sanctions and the suspension of trade privileges with the European Union.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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John Lowrie
Feb 10, 2022 07:55 PM

Government officials are often very reluctant to give official receipts, and sometimes any receipts they do give are unofficial. Who knows where the money ends-up? At least with ability to pay by banks, rather than cash that officials prefer, there is a greater chance it will appear somewhere in the government revenues. I am guilty of doing what officials suspected. I posted publicly my "receipt".