Cambodian who threw shoe at billboard image of Hun Sen resettles in Canada

Sam Sokha sought political asylum in Thailand after serving 4 years in prison.
By Ieng Neang for RFA Khmer
Cambodian who threw shoe at billboard image of Hun Sen resettles in Canada Sam Sokha, a Cambodian democracy advocate, is now in Canada. She is pictured in this July 2022 image from social media.
(Facebook/Sam Sokha)

A Cambodian woman who sought political asylum in Thailand after she was arrested and jailed for throwing a shoe at a billboard that featured a photo of then-Prime Minister Hun Sen has arrived in Canada.

Sam Sokha told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday that she and her two children landed in Canada’s Alberta province on Jan. 12 and are being cared for by a refugee rights group.

She said she will continue to advocate for democracy in Cambodia.

“After going through detention, as well as the stories that I came across, I see that our Cambodian people are facing more difficulties than me,” she said. “I still do not give up my will.”

Last month, Sam Sokha was one of 10 people detained by Thai immigration authorities during a civic workshop in Bangkok. 

The workshop was held to inform Cambodian migrant workers and political asylum seekers in Thailand about Cambodia’s 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, which formally ended decades of war in the country and paved the way for parliamentary democracy.

The arrests were made several days after minor political parties and NGOs aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, urged Thai authorities to monitor opposition activists in Thailand.

In 2017, video clips posted on Facebook showed Sam Sokha twice throwing her shoe at a CPP billboard in Kampong Speu province that included a photo of Heng Samrin, who was then the president of the National Assembly, as well as Hun Sen.

The videos prompted the CPP to file a criminal complaint. Party spokesman Sok Ey San said at the time that the videos showed her intent to curse the two leaders.

“We will not let her get away with this,” he said at the time.

In 2018, the Kampong Speu Provincial Court sentenced the former factory worker to four years in prison. 

She fled to Thailand but was arrested and returned to Cambodia, where she began serving her prison term in February 2018. She was released in 2022 after she paid a 10 million riel (US$2,440) fine. Then she again traveled to Thailand to seek political asylum.

Dozens of pro-democracy Cambodian activists have crossed into Thailand in recent years as the CPP continues to use intimidation and the courts to neutralize political opponents. Thailand is also host to more than 1 million Cambodian migrant workers. 

RFA was unable to reach government spokesman Pen Bona to ask for comment on Sam Sokha’s resettlement in Canada. 

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


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