Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) President Mr. Kem Sokha and Mr. Yeng Virak, Director of Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) and member of organizing committee of the International Human Rights Day celebration on 10 December 2005, were arrested on separate occasions on 31 December 2005 by police authorities on charges of defamation related to the December 10 celebration. On 4 January 2006, Pa Nguon Teang, acting director of the CCHR and Producer of the CCHR Voice of Democracy radio programme, was arrested near the Cambodia-Laos border and later detained on the same charges. The men were charged with defamation under article 63 of the 1992 Provisions Relating to the Judiciary and Criminal Law and Procedure Applicable in Cambodia during the Transitional Period (known as the UNTAC law). The charges stemmed from their alleged criticism of a border demarcation pact Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen signed with Vietnam in October.
In recent months, other human rights activists and journalists in Cambodia have been arrested and similarly charged while some critics, including opposition leader Sam Rainsy, have fled the country. In December 2005, Mr. Rainsy received an 18-month jail term in absentia for defamation. Four months earlier, Cheam Channy, a senior member of the Sam Rainsy Party, was sentenced in a military court to seven years in jail in a trial strongly condemned by Amnesty International and described by Human Rights Watch as “grossly unfair.”
“Cambodia: Opposition MP Jailed After Sham Trial.” Human Rights Watch. [link]
“Cambodia: Prisoners of conscience/human rights defenders at risk.” Amnesty International.
“Cambodia sentences Sam Rainsy.” [link]
“Cambodia: Sentencing of parliamentarian reflects continuing flaws in the judicial system.” Amnesty International.
“Military court Jails Cambodian MP.” [link]
Letter by Gail Davidson sent on January 4, 2006
UPDATE – 17 February 2006
In January, 2006 Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen dropped the defamation charges against journalist Mom Sonando, union leader Rong Chhun and activists Kem Sokha and Pa Nguon Teing shortly after the men were released on bail pending trial. Criminal complaints against Yeng Virak were also reportedly withdrawn.
Opposition politicians Sam Rainsy and Cheam Channy were granted royal pardons in early February, 2006. Cheam Channy was released from prison after serving one year of a seven-year sentence while Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia following a year of self-imposed exile in France.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights. [link]
“Cambodia: Further information on Prisoners of conscience/human rights defenders at risk.” Amnesty International.
“Cambodian leader drops lawsuits.” [link]
“Cambodian opposition member freed.” [link]
“Sam Rainsy returns to Cambodia.” [link]