US reps call for journos’ re­lease

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - Niem Ch­heng

MEM­BERS of the US Congress is­sued a let­ter on Wednesday crit­i­cis­ing the ar­rest of two Ra­dio Free Asia (RFA) jour­nal­ists, claim­ing it was part of a cam­paign by the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen.

How­ever, Coun­cil of Min­is­ters’ spokesman, Phay Siphan, shot back, say­ing the let­ter was just the per­sonal opin­ion of a few mem­bers of the US Congress and does not have any ju­ris­dic­tion in Cam­bo­dia.

“The US con­gress­men only work on US mat­ters. They don’t have any ju­ris­dic­tion over other coun­tries. Each sovereign na­tion has its own laws, in­sti­tu­tions and pro­ce­dures,” he said.

Re p re s e n t a t i v e s Al a n

Lowen­thal of Cal­i­for­nia and Steve Chabot of Ohio, en­dorsed the state­ment which said: “As mem­bers of the US Congress, we are con­cerned not only about the down­ward spi­ral of Cam­bo­dia’s frag­ile democ­racy, but also about the de­ten­tion of nu­mer­ous peo­ple caught up in Hun Sen’s au­to­cratic net.

“Over the last year, the Hun Sen regime has in­ten­si­fied the mis­use of the Cam­bo­dian jus­tice sys­tem to pros­e­cute op­po­si­tion and hu­man rights ac­tivists, ar­rest­ing the lead­ers of the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion on du­bi­ous charges of trea­son, dis­solv­ing the Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party [CNRP] and ban­ning over 100 CNRP mem­bers from po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.”

The let­ter claimed that since July 2015, au­thor­i­ties had ar­rested over 35 po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion and civil so­ci­ety lead­ers, many of whom have been pros­e­cuted and con­victed in sum­mary tri­als that failed to meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

“We have known al­ready that you also worry as we do. We urge you to con­tinue de­bat­ing for the re­lease of Oun Ch­hin and Yeang Sot­hearin,” the let­ter said.

David Josar, a US Em­bassy spokesper­son, told The Post via email on Thursday that he did not have di­rect in­for­ma­tion about the let­ter but urged the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment to al­low jour­nal­ists to do their work.

“The gov­ern­ment of Cam­bo­dia should al­low civil so­ci­ety – in­clud­ing in­de­pen­dent me­dia – to carry out their con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected work.

“The es­pi­onage charges against the for­mer Ra­dio Free Asia jour­nal­ists are a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated at­tempt to un­der­mine me­dia free­dom and to dis­suade other jour­nal­ists from do­ing their jobs,” he said.

Union of Jour­nal­ist Fed­er­a­tions of Cam­bo­dia Di­rec­tor Huy Van­nak said that while he wel­comed the at­tempted in­ter­ven­tion let­ter, it could bring more harm to Ch­hin and Sot­hearin.

“Are both of them jour­nal­ists any longer? If yes, for whom? Sec­ondly, what is the ba­sis for this in­ter­ven­tion . . . be­cause the US is a su­per­power?” he asked.

He asked why the in­ter­ven­tion came only in cer­tain cases, and said for­eign coun­tries should not in­ter­fere in ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures, or vi­o­late Cam­bo­dia’s sovereignty “other­wise, it would put the two de­tainees at higher risk”.



For­mer RFA re­porters Yeang Sot­hearin (front, in blue shirt) and Oun Ch­hin (back, in white shirt) are es­corted by of­fi­cials af­ter be­ing de­tained for ques­tion­ing in Ph­nom Penh in Novem­ber.

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