14 CNRP Activists Denied Bail, Trial Set for December

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Supporters of the banned opposition CNRP sit across the street from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 14, 2020. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)

Fourteen opposition activists and members, many of them arrested early last year over Covid-19 posts and private conversations, were denied bail during a hearing this morning.

Their trial, after more than a year of pretrial detention for many of the accused, will begin next month, the court ruled.

Among the defendants at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court was Yim Sareth, a former CNRP commune official who was arrested for incitement last March after posting a photo of himself working at a construction site.

“I am wearing this mask because I don’t want to inhale dust and cement, especially Covid-19,” read the caption.

Khim Pheana was arrested last April after he “shared news” about Covid-19.

Kak Komphear, the father of a teenager arrested and recently released for insulting officials online, was also among those appealing for bail on Wednesday morning.

Sareth, Pheana and 10 others are part of one court case, while Komphear and Heng Chansothy are in separate cases. All 14 defendants argued they had health issues, such as high blood pressure and gastrointestinal issues, and that their families were struggling with their livelihoods and bank debt.

The court set trial dates of December 7 and 9.

Defense lawyer Sam Sokong said the denial of bail affected his clients’ rights. “I am disappointed with the court’s decision,” Sokong said.

The hearing came after the release of 26 political prisoners in the week to Friday.

Human Rights Watch, however, said more than 60 political prisoners remained in Cambodia’s prisons, and all those released still had charges hanging over them.

“[T]here is nothing to stop the Cambodian authorities from rearresting them at any time,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director. “The EU, US, donors and other friends of Cambodia should press Prime Minister Hun Sen to end the cynical game of revolving prison doors where some people are released, and others take up their places in the same prison cells.”

The other 10 defendants on Wednesday were Keo Thai, Sun Thun, Long Phary, Pheat Mab, Sok Chantha, Nhem Vean, Thai Sokunthea, Chum Chan, Khut Chroek and Ngin Khean.


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