Cambodian opposition party lawmakers were turned away from a prison in the country’s Tbong Khmum province on Monday following a failed second attempt to visit jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha, who is being held on a charge of treason, sources said.
The request to visit Kem Sokha was turned down by the investigating judge in the case, who said that only the party leader’s family members and lawyers may see him before his trial.
The group had previously tried to visit on September 11.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) parliamentarian Mao Monyvann said that party members and constituents will continue to travel to the province’s remote Trapeang Phlong prison each Monday to show their support.
“People always ask that we relay their message to Kem Sokha that they are with him, and are upset that the country’s constitution was violated by his arrest,” Mao Monyvann said.
Arrested without a warrant in the capital Phnom Penh early on Sept. 3, Kem Sokha was accused of treason in a move critics say shows prime minister Hun Sen is intensifying his attacks on political opponents ahead of national elections scheduled for 2018.
He was formally charged on September 5.
The jailed opposition leader remains in good health, though, Mao Monyvann told RFA.
“We have not been able to meet with him since his arrest, but what I have learned from family members and his lawyers is that he is in good health. He remains both physically and mentally strong,” he said.
“He sends this message to the public: That the authorities can restrict his freedom, but they can never restrict the freedom of Cambodia’s people.”
Violation of privacy
Lawyers for the jailed party chief meanwhile asked the investigating court on Sept. 15 to remove a surveillance camera installed in Kem Sokha’s private cell, calling the camera’s presence in the room a violation of his right to privacy.
“This is a severe intrusion,” Som Sokong, one of Kem Sokha’s lawyers, told RFA. “[Kem Sokha’s] daily activities, including when he changes his clothes, are all being taped. This is unacceptable,” he said.
“We have asked that the camera be removed.”
Ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesperson Sok Eysan defended the surveillance, however, saying that the camera had been placed there for Kem Sokha’s own good.
“Kem Sokha is the key player in an evil plot by a superpower,” he said, alluding to government charges that the CNRP leader had conspired with the United States to overthrow Hun Sen in a so-called “color revolution.”
“That superpower may now want to kill him to remove the evidence of their plot.”
“Kem Sokha is nothing but an orange whose juice has already been squeezed, and there is no further use for him,” Sok Eysan said.
“So I would like to ask his lawyers how they can be sure he’ll be safe if the camera is removed. Tell me how,” he said.
A hearing on Kem Sokha’s appeal against his provisional detention will be held on September 26.
Protest in Europe
Over 200 Cambodians living in France, Holland, Austria, Germany, and Belgium meanwhile protested on Monday in Brussels, asking European governments to put pressure on Hun Sen to immediately free Kem Sokha and other jailed Cambodian prisoners of conscience.
“We call on European countries to freeze the bank accounts of all corrupt government officials [in Cambodia] and to impose a visa ban on them and their families,” protest spokesperson Thhai Makarar said.
“European countries respect human rights and democracy, so we should not allow human rights abusers to set foot in these countries,” he said.
Further protests will be carried out in front of the offices of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 26, Thhai Makarar said.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Richard Finney.