Government Critic Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

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Voeun Veasna, an activist with the court-dissolved CNRP opposition, pictured on a street in Thailand. (Photo from the activist’s Facebook page)
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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Voeun Veasna, a former monk who was involved in forestry activism, to two years in prison for incitement over criticisms he posted on Facebook.

On Thursday, judge Chhun Davy said Veasna, who posted online under the account Kra’nhung Prey Lang, was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 2 million riel for his posts in April 2021.

Veasna was extradited from Thailand in November for the crime.

During the morning session, judge Davy asked Veasna whether he had any response to the allegations against him.

“I ask not to answer because I don’t have a lawyer,” he said. After Veasna refused to give an answer, the judge asked the prosecution to make its final statement.

Deputy prosecutor Mut Dara said posts were inciting and had affected the government.

Veasna had posted a poem under a photo of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s grandson criticizing the government over land disputes and the destruction of forests.

Veasna again told the court that he had nothing to add since the court had not invited his lawyer. Judge Davy responded that the court had given him a month to find representation.

“If the court receives a request from a lawyer, the court will invite the lawyer to come for the trial,” Davy said. “No lawyer submitted a letter to defend the case.”

Davy issued the verdict following a 15-minute break.

Veasna continued to insist that the court had failed to invite his lawyer and called the decision unjust. He refused to thumbprint the decision, saying the court was “remote-controlled.”

Defense lawyer Sam Sokong said he represented Veasna in a separate case for plotting, but not in the incitement case.

Licadho spokesperson Am Sam Ath said the sentence was too harsh considering the crime.

Veasna was extradited from Thailand alongside Voeung Samnang, a former opposition commune deputy chief.

A monk, Bor Bet, faced extradition soon after, but was released and is now a refugee in Switzerland.

Dozens of opposition activists have faced trial over support for the outlawed CNRP, which was once the country’s main opposition party.

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