Visit our new website:

Cambodian Opposition Lawmakers Call For End to Persecution of Former Commune Chief

  • Thu, 15 Feb 2018 06:17

Several former opposition lawmakers in Cambodia have asked the United Nations human rights agency and other international organizations to stop a ruling party lawmaker from politically persecuting a former commune chief in the northwestern town of Battambang.

The 13 politicians sent letters dated Feb. 12 to Yuji Iwasawa, chairman of the U.N. Human Rights Committee under the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Rhona Smith, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union.

They requested that the organizations prevent Chheang Vun of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) from continuing to threaten and harass his main political rival Sin Chanpeou Rozeth of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Sin Chanpeou Rozeth won the O'Cha commune elections last June, becoming the only woman elected as a commune chief in Battambang.

The letter, made public today, noted that after Sin Chanpeou Rozeth took office, she was harassed and bullied by Chheang Vun and other officials who publicly took her to task for minor administrative errors during the start of her tenure and prevented her from building a drainage system in her commune.

When Cambodia’s Supreme Court, controlled by Prime Minister Hun Sen, dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, Sin Chanpeou Rozeth lost her position, forcing her to open a small restaurant to support her family, the letter said.

“This has resulted in her being accused by CPP Member of Parliament Chheang Vun of ‘conducting political activity’ within the premises of her restaurant, based on unfounded allegations that former CNRP members had been seen entering her restaurant,’ it said.

Chheang Vun also attacked Sin Chanpeou Rozeth on Facebook, saying that her eatery was a gathering place for rebel groups.

“Given the dire state of democracy and rule of law in Cambodia, as well as the myriad of court cases that are being undertaken against members of the opposition and civil society, we are extremely concerned that these allegations could turn into more serious charges,” the letter said.

The opposition politicians requested that the U.N. and other organizations raise their concerns with Heng Samrin, president of the National Assembly, and request that current lawmakers ensure the safety of Sin Chanpeou Rozeth and other CNRP officials still in Cambodia.

'No faith in the judicial system'

In an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service, Sin Chanpeou Rozeth said fewer people have been patronizing her restaurant because they are afraid of being arrested.

When she hung a poster in the shop saying, “Rozeth’s store happily welcomes all customers but the rebels,” local authorities ordered her to remove it.

“At least for four consecutive days after Chheang Vun’s threats, my customers were scared,” she said. “Though they liked my food, they were too intimidated to come to eat at the shop because they were afraid they would be seen.”

Sin Chanpeou Rozeth said she is not considering filing a lawsuit against the members of the ruling elite for persecuting her.

“I have no faith in the judicial system,” she said. “I would like to call on them to stop persecuting me and my business. I am just an ordinary citizen who runs an honest business for a living. … I want to request that ruling party politicians not use threats to intimidate us.”

When the CRNP was dissolved, 55 elected lawmakers and 63 senior officials from the party were banned from politics for up to five years, while the more than 5,000 remaining elected CNRP commune chiefs and district counselors were removed from their positions by the ruling party.

Some lawmakers and other officials have fled Cambodia for fear of their safety, while several members of commune councils have taken refuge in Thailand and other countries.

The action was part of a crackdown on the opposition by Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, to ensure he remains in office following a general election scheduled for July.

In a further measure to stifle the opposition, Cambodian lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously approved amendments that could further limit free speech and political activities and passed a lese-majeste law that makes insulting the royal family a criminal offense.

Thak Lany defamation case

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Feb. 26 involving Senator Thak Lany, a Sam Rainsy Party member who went into exile after Hun Sen filed a defamation suit against her.

The senator and others, including former CNRP president Sam Rainsy and social and political commentator Kim Sok, accused the government of being behind the July 2016 assassination of Kem Ley, a prominent political analyst, scholar, and Hun Sen critic.

In November 2016, a Cambodian court sentenced Thak Lany in absentia to one and a half years in prison and fined her fine her 8 million riel ($ U.S. 2,000) for incitement and defamation, after she had been stripped of her parliamentary immunity.

Thak Lany has previously denied making the remarks, saying that her comments were edited to make her look like she was lodging the criticism.

Sam Rainsy has lived in exile since 2015 to avoid convictions widely seen as politically motivated. Kim Sok was sentenced in August 2017 to 18 months in prison on charges of defamation and incitement to cause social disorder and ordered to pay hefty fines to the prime minister and the country’s government.

Kem Ley was shot dead in broad daylight when he stopped in a convenience store beside a gas station in the capital Phnom Penh.

Though authorities charged a former soldier with the murder and sentenced him to life in prison, many in Cambodia did not believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the man over a debt.

Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of Hun Sen’s family.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

RFA Home


Related Stories

Alvarez denies saying Sara Duterte is part of ‘opposition’
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:28

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thur - Headlines

Fed Gives Bullish Signals on Economy
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 16:15

Federal Reserve officials agreed last month that a strengthening economic growth outlook bolstered their plans to keep raising short-term interest rat...

Voices from Syria's former oasis: 'They will die, one by one'
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 16:07 - RSS Channel - App International Edition

Retired landmine sniffer dogs find a home at Cambodian charity
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:17

Retired landmine detection dogs find a home at Cambodian charity after working in 'some of the most horrific parts of the world' In the first ...

Pakistan PM says court ‘hinders democracy’ by banning deposed premier Nawaz Sharif from leading own party
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:09

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said a court order that barred former premier Nawaz Sharif from leading the ruling party and plac...

Organisers play down significance of US-Taiwan arms sale forum
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 14:15

The organisers of an event to be held in Taipei for Taiwan and the United States to discuss arms sales say they have not committed to hold the meeting...

North Korea Repositions Hacking Unit for Global Cyberattacks
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 12:11

One of North Korea’s three major hacking units, in a strategic shift, is hunting for overseas targets and not covering its tracks, according to a ne...

Nanjing massacre memorial condemns viral photos of ‘Japanese soldiers’ posing in the city
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 11:27

A memorial in Nanjing commemorating Chinese civilians massacred by Japanese troops in 1937, has condemned photos circulating online showing two Chines...

Venezuela's Maduro wants 'mega-election' amid opposition boycott
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 11:27

Nicolás Maduro calls for more elections to be added to April's vote amid an opposition boycott. BBC News - World

Former Google Employee Files Lawsuit Over Retaliation After Speaking Out About Diversity
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 11:04

Gizmodo reported on Wednesday that a former Google engineer is suing the company for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination...

Israel spy team called ‘Unit 8200’ foiled IS plot to bring down passenger jet from Australia
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 10:06

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that intelligence provided by his country foiled a plot by Islamic State to bring down a plane from Aus...

Rohingya Refugees in ‘No-Man’s Land’ Reject Repatriation Without Safety Guarantees
  • Thu, 22 Feb 2018 08:15

Hundreds of Rohingya refugees living on a strip of unclaimed land along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border protested Wednesday against their repatriation t...

News Categories