Candlelight Party politician Son Chhay met on Wednesday with 23 jailed opposition officials and activists at Prey Sar prison and asked for them to be released on bail, characterizing their arrests as political cases.
Chhay is facing two defamation trials himself. Most of the activists he met were jailed for their alleged involvement in an unsuccessful return attempt by opposition leader Sam Rainsy in November 2019.
Chhay said the activists asked him to advocate for their release on bail because there were political motives behind their arrests.
“I saw everyone and their health is poor. We don’t want them to die in prison. First, they are not in good health. Second, they did not harm society,” Chhay said.
He said if the activists were not given bail they should be moved to a cell block together and not mixed with people charged with drug offenses. He said they told him about people smoking in the cells and general unhygienic conditions in prison.
Prisons Department spokesperson Nuth Savna said the court would decide whether to give the inmates bail and said the department would investigate requests made by the 23 activists to be in the same cell block.
“We had put them together but there was a problem when they were together. They caused too many problems. Then, we separated them but if the accused want to make any request, they can submit a letter to the Interior Ministry,” he said.
Rights group Licadho lists at least 40 political prisoners of interest in Cambodian prisons, with most from the disbanded CNRP or the resurgent Candlelight Party.
Candlelight Party members were arrested in the run up to the June commune election or after the results showed that the party was second only to the CPP.