Candlelight Official Says Death Threats Led Her to Leave Cambodia

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Demonstrator Hong An rallies outside the French Embassy in Phnom Penh on October 23, 2020 (Mech Dara/VOD)
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An Oddar Meanchey Candlelight official left the country with her children last year after she claimed security personnel attempted to take her life on three occasions.

Hong An, the deputy head of Candlelight’s Oddar Meanchey executive committee, said she left the country fearing her safety and was reluctant to reveal her location citing security concerns. She spoke to VOD last week and said she had left the country on July 17, shortly after the commune election.

An was previously convicted as an instigator of protests outside the Chinese Embassy in 2020 and sentenced to 12 months in prison. She had been part of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party and joined the 2020 protest held on Paris Peace Agreement day.

Last week, the now-Candlelight official claimed that she had faced three attempts on her life in 2022 from security officials, prompting her to leave the country with her two children.

In May 2022, she claimed a car with three soldiers as passengers tried to run her over in Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat commune. In the second alleged attempt, she said a group of people chased her and a colleague — the two were riding a motorcycle — causing the colleague to get injured.

In her third allegation, An said she was monitoring the commune election in June when she saw uniformed soldiers standing near where people were registering to cast their ballot. She said they attempted to arrest her at the time but she was able to escape, providing little detail about the encounter. She said she was later warned about her political activism.

“Someone informed me that I would be arrested, if not I would be killed in a car accident. So I saw that the situation is really serious,” An said last week.

An’s family was distancing themselves from her because they were scared of being targeted for being related to her. “They do not want to be involved with me,” she said.

Opposition-aligned activists and politicians have routinely complained of intimidation and violence, with around 30 people attacked over the last five years, according to a lawyer representing some of these cases. Dozens of the former CNRP leaders, councilors and activists left the country since the party was dissolved in 2017 due to increased persecution and threat thereof. 

Oddar Meanchey deputy governor Dy Rado said there was no political persecution in the province and rejected An’s allegations.

“As I have said, no one knows or has heard about this case like she is saying,” Rado said. “As I said earlier there is no such case here in Oddar Meanchey.”

Newly-recruited Candlelight spokesperson Kimsour Phirith said he did not know about An’s specific case, but that the allegations resonated with other members of the opposition. Heading into the national election in July, he said the party could only try and negotiate with local authorities to address these concerns. 

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