A prominent Cambodian activist who fled her country on a six-day journey through the jungle has arrived safely in Thailand, where she plans to seek UN asylum. “treason” against another critic of the ruling party in the country.
Sat Pha, who backed the now-banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told RFA she fled after a handwritten threat, which she said came from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, saying that she could be “disappeared”. was nailed to his door.
“The authorities know how to attack, arrest and imprison [activists]“, she declared to the Khmer service of RFA.
Opponents of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have been the target of a 5-year crackdown that has sent CNRP leaders into exile and dozens of its supporters to jail . Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, allowing the CPP to win all 125 seats in parliament in the July 2018 elections.
Sat Pha is one of many Cambodians who have been disenfranchised in land disputes with the government or developers. She has also protested against the detention of former CNRP politicians and, she says, has been beaten by government officials.
“The authorities attacked me until my legs were injured. The govt. arrested by the authorities? As a leader [Hun Sen] it does not protect citizens. He knows how to attack, arrest and imprison. The killers are never brought to justice,” she said.
Sat Pha said she fell ill during her trip but is now at a safe place in Thailand. She said she was in the country illegally and lacked food. She plans to seek asylum at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand.
Sat Pha was released from prison in Cambodia six months ago after serving a year for inciting social unrest during a peaceful protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh.
RFA was unable to contact Phnom Penh municipal police spokesman San Sok Seiha for comment.
However, Cambodian People’s Party spokesman and lawmaker Sok Ey San told RFA he believed Sat Pha fabricated his story to gain sympathy.
“The police have a duty to search for suspects. There needs to be cooperation between the victim and the police. It could be a personal dispute,” he said.
Sok Ey San previously denied that the threat came from the CPP leadership.
Sat Pha has the right to ask NGOs for help when she has no confidence in the authorities, Soeung Seng Karuna, spokesperson for the Cambodian Association for Human Rights and Development, told RFA. .
“It is normal for a threatened victim to seek asylum,” he said.
Trial of Kem Sokha
During the treason trial of former CNRP leader Kem Sokha in Phnom Penh, prosecutors on Wednesday refused to summon representatives of any foreign government with which he is accused of collusion.
The prosecution cited the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, an international agreement that codifies diplomatic immunity.
Defense lawyer Ang Odom told RFA after Wednesday’s session that the convention does not prohibit representatives of foreign governments from testifying, adding that the prosecution had told the defense they could ask foreign governments to testify.
“They have to do it, but they asked us to do it instead,” he said, adding that the defense planned to formally ask the prosecution to summon foreign government officials to testify during the trial. next week’s session, scheduled for April 27.
“All parties involved will assist the court in seeking the truth. They must tell the truth about the alleged collusion to commit treason,” he said.
Government says Kem Sokha was in cahoots with Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Australia, United States, Canada, European Union, Taiwan and India in plots to betray Cambodia .
The government may have a legitimate argument over the Vienna Convention, Cambodian American legal analyst Theary Seng, who is herself on trial in Phnom Penh for treason and incitement, told RFA.
“I rarely have the opportunity to agree with the political tool of this regime [the court], but in this case it is fair to dismiss the defense request. First, there is a clear international custom and provision enshrined in Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which grants diplomats immunity from criminal prosecution as an accused person or a witness,” he said. she declared.
“Secondly, it is not politically possible for a country, especially a superpower, to give in to an incendiary charge of ‘treason’ in another country’s justice system, as this carries innumerable criminal and political implications” , she said.
Theary Seng said that judging a diplomat would cause the country he represents to lose face.
“It is understandable that Kem Sokha’s lawyers turn to influential figures or countries to come to the defense of their client by denying this very serious accusation of treason. But it is a dead end. Defense lawyers should instead compel prosecutors and the court to demand why the regime did not expel the diplomats or close the embassy, rendering the diplomat persona non grata or communicating to the sending state the extremely serious change,” she said.
Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.