REGIONS:

SUBSCRIBE:

Sign up for weekly updates

Ruling party sues activist Ou Virak for comments made during interview

Recent moves by authorities are representative of a rapidly worsening crackdown on Cambodian civil society and political opposition, 18 of whom are currently imprisoned or detained.

2 March 2015 photo of political analyst Ou Virak
2 March 2015 photo of political analyst Ou Virak

Ou Virak/Facebook

This statement was originally published on cchrcambodia.org on 26 April 2016.

The Anti-Corruption Unit (“ACU”) yesterday (25 April 2016) summonsed seven civil society workers and one National Election Committee (“NEC”) official in relation to a complaint made by Ms. Khom Chandaraty, the alleged mistress of Cambodian National Rescue Party (“CNRP”) Vice-President Mr. Kem Sokha. Those summonsed are Mr. Ny Sokha, Mr. Nay Vanda, Mr. Yi Soksan, Ms. Lim Mony and lawyer Ms. Try Chhuon, all staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (“ADHOC”); Mr. Soen Sally, an employee of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Ms. Thida Khus, the head of women's advocacy NGO Silaka. Former senior ADHOC official Mr. Ny Chakrya, who is now deputy secretary-general of the NEC, was also summonsed, although the purpose of his summonsing is unclear. ACU President Om Yentieng reportedly stated yesterday that those summonsed must submit for questioning later this week and that failure to do so would result in arrests.

These summonses have emerged as a result of claims by Ms. Chandaraty (also known under alias 'Srey Mom') that the named civil society staff members advised her to lie about an alleged affair with Kem Sokha. In response, ADHOC released a 17-minute video of their first meeting with Ms. Chandaraty, which shows her denying the accusations of an affair and, thus, supports their assertion that they simply “provided her with human rights protection [and]… did not induce her to talk truthfully or dishonestly”. Ms. Chandaraty's allegation has therefore aroused suspicions of external interference.

On the same day, prominent political analyst Mr. Ou Virak was also targeted for comments he made regarding Ms. Chandaraty's case in an interview with Radio Free Asia, broadcast on Sunday, 24 April 2016. In response, Cambodian People's Party (“CPP”) spokesman Sok Eysan has filed a criminal complaint of public defamation against Mr. Ou Virak, under Article 305 of the Criminal Code of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The complaint also seeks 400million Cambodian Riel (approximately USD $100,000) in damages. The complaint follows remarks by Prime Minister Hun Sen that the CPP would take legal action against any political analyst who damages the “honor and dignity” of the CPP. Ou Virak's comments appear to fall well within the bounds of legitimate expression under international human rights law.

These moves by the Cambodian authorities are representative of the rapidly worsening crackdown on Cambodian civil society and the political opposition. Yesterday's events occurred in the context of an increasingly volatile political situation in Cambodia. At present, 18 members of the opposition are imprisoned or detained, while CNRP President Mr. Sam Rainsy remains in self-imposed exile due to an arrest warrant issued against him in November 2015. Worryingly, yesterday's events appear to indicate that this crackdown is now being expanded to target prominent civil society actors.

Latest Tweet:

China's newest censorship methods on display - https://t.co/wGy6gq3bOF https://t.co/6YquHMGWtO