Rong Chhun, Khmer Win Party Leader Have Sentences Reduced, Could Be Released

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Unionist Rong Chhun leaves the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh after attending an appeal hearing on November 11, 2020, in this photograph posted to Chhun’s Facebook page.

The Appeal Court on Friday reduced the jail terms of prominent unionist Rong Chhun, Khmer Win Party president Suong Sophorn and two CNRP activists to bring their sentences in line with a recent wave of activists’ releases.

In decisions announced this morning, Chhun’s sentence was reduced from two years to 15 months and 11 days; Sophorn’s from 20 months to 14 months and 27 days; Sar Kanika from 20 months to 15 months and five days; and Ton Nimol from 20 months to 14 months and 24 days. Chhun, Nimol and Kanika were put under probation for three years.

Chhun was arrested in relation to comments he made last year about the country losing territory to Vietnam, and the others for their support for his release.

Based on the days of their arrests, three of four of the prisoners’ sentences are due to end today.

Nimol, however, was arrested in October last year, and also has a second incitement case against him for a protest outside the Chinese Embassy.

Khmer Thavrak activists Hun Vannak and Chhoeun Daravy are also due for release from Prey Sar Prison today, adding to the eight other releases since last Friday.

Nearly 80 political prisoners are estimated to remain in the country’s prisons.

The releases come amid international criticism, including U.N. experts saying the courts were “weaponised” to silence dissent. The U.S. has also increased pressure on Cambodia, warning U.S. businesses about human rights abuses and corruption, sanctioning two military-linked officials and announcing a review of trade benefits.

Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, is a long-time and prominent activist. His arrest in late July last year sparked a wave of small protests.

He had raised allegations of Cambodia losing land along the Vietnam border in Tbong Khmum province, rekindling populist and racist opposition fears.

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