A CNRP activist who distributed T-shirts saying “Thank you for peace, but respect Article 2 of the Constitution” was questioned in court on Thursday as his brother railed that authorities “keep hunting down and persecuting people and do not allow them to live peacefully.”
A Tbong Khmum Provincial Court document, signed by Presiding Judge Nou Chansokunthea, said Su Yean, 45, was summoned to appear for questioning in relation to a charge of incitement to disturb social security on social media and in Tbong Khmum on October 22.
On the following day, October 23, which was the anniversary of the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, the dissolved main opposition party held protests in front of the Chinese, U.S. and French embassies in Phnom Penh.
Yean was arrested last month for organizing people in Tbong Khmum to attend the protest on October 23. Earlier in the month, other CNRP supporters said Yean distributed the T-shirts that referenced the constitutional article on Cambodia’s territorial border, a sensitive political issue that has flared up in recent months.
Yean’s brother, Su Yen, 51, said there were no grounds for considering his brother’s actions a crime.
“They’ve violated people’s rights and freedoms since there is no law to ban people against a T-shirt with a logo about following Article 2 of the Constitution,” Yen said. “This move is to stop people from expressing their views as guaranteed by Cambodian law — this is a very serious violation and we cannot accept it.”
He said he was still shocked by the authorities’ actions. “They keep hunting down and persecuting people and do not allow them to live peacefully,” he said. “The authorities kept their eyes on him every day and knew everything he did … until they finally arrested him and fulfilled their goal.”
“We see this persecution and suppression against our family and society,” he continued. “They use [the law] to prevent us from following the law, and it makes us angry.”
Yean’s wife, Srey Seath, said about 20 people gathered outside the court in support of her husband on Thursday morning. “They did not allow us to go into the room because they were afraid we would report it to journalists,” she said.
Yean’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said his client had been questioned about gathering people for the Paris Peace Agreements rallies as well as the T-shirts.
“Their evidence is the T-shirts,” Sokong said. “They said this shirt is illegal.”
The court also presented social media conversations from Facebook and Telegram about organizing the October 23 protests, the lawyer added.
“[People] have the right to peaceful assembly and to express their views,” he said.
The Supreme Court controversially outlawed the CNRP in 2017, and supporters continue to be arrested and summoned to court for ongoing party activism.
Seven former CNRP officials were found guilty of plotting in Tbong Khmum in September, though two received suspended sentences and four were overseas or in hiding.