Cambodian court orders arrest of opposition party officials

The charges are similar to those facing other Candlelight Party officials who switched from a smaller party.
By RFA Khmer
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Cambodian court orders arrest of  opposition party officials Seng Visal and Bin Chhong gather with their supporters ahead of their arrest on fraud charges outside Prey Veng Provincial Court.
(Image grab from a Citizen journalist video)

A provincial court ordered the arrest of two senior Candlelight Party officials on fraud charges, the latest such charges – which critics called politically motivated – that stem from political party registration documents filed last year.

Seng Visal, the Candlelight Party’s finance officer in Prey Veng province, and Bin Chhong, a commune council member in Prey Veng, were arrested and charged with submitting fraudulent documents to the Ministry of Interior for last year’s local commune election candidate lists. 

The two officials were members of the National Heart Party at the time. They have since switched their allegiance to the Candlelight Party – the main opposition party and the biggest threat to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

The CPP filed the complaint against the two officials as a way of intimidating opposition party activists ahead of the July parliamentary elections, said Dim Yun, the executive director for the Candlelight Party in Prey Veng. 

“I am very disappointed with the arrest. This is very inappropriate. During the election, the government should allow more political parties and not arrest any party’s activists,” he said. “This is not about criminal offenses, it is a politically motivated case to intimidate opposition party officials in Prey Veng.” 

Four other Candlelight Party officials have been arrested on similar charges in recent weeks. 

In previous similar cases, the Ministry of Interior has said that the National Heart Party collected several hundred forged thumbprints on documents it filed when it registered ahead of the 2022 commune elections. 

Seng Visal and Bin Chhong ahead of their arrest on fraud charges at Prey Veng Provincial Court. (Image grab from a Citizen journalist video)

Aimed at intimidation

But any problems that the ministry had with last year’s candidate lists should have already been resolved, said Am Sam Ath of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, or Licadho.

“These arrests will lead to criticism saying the arrests were aimed at intimidating the opposition party officials who will compete in the election,” he said. 

Seng Visal and Bin Chhong were questioned at Prey Veng provincial court for four hours before their arrest, their lawyer Sam Sokong told Radio Free Asia. They are being held without bail even though their alleged crime is minor and they have full-time jobs, he said.

“According to the law, they have permanent jobs – particularly Bin Chhong, who is a commune councilor – so they should be safe to be released on bail,” he said.

Outside the courthouse, about 50 supporters gathered to show solidarity with the officials before they went inside the court for questioning. 

After the questioning, Presiding Judge Hem Krishna ordered the arrests and that Seng Visal and Bin Chhong be detained while they await trial. Later, Prey Veng Provincial Prison Department officials refused to allow a defense lawyer and party officials to see them. 

Court spokesman Ath Sokhon refused to comment when contacted by RFA. 

Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


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