US Lawyer’s Support for CNRP Defendant Violated Tourist Visa: Interior Ministry

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Seng Chan Theary, in an apsara costume, and US lawyer Jared Genser behind her, walk to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in December 2021. (Ananth Baliga/VOD)

Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said an international lawyer assisting CNRP-linked Seng Chan Theary had damaged Cambodia’s honor by attending her trial. Jared Genser, Chan Theary’s lawyer, says he was only attending a friend’s trial hearing.

Chan Theary is one of dozens of CNRP members and supporters facing incitement and plotting charges in a Phnom Penh court. Genser, a U.S. national and human rights lawyer, accompanied Chan Theary during a hearing in the case in early December.

The government on Thursday announced that it had banned Genser from entering the country, with Sopheak saying the U.S. national had violated immigration laws by entering on a tourist visa but then attending Chan Theary’s hearing and speaking to the press afterward.

He had violated the tourist visa and insulted Cambodia, Sopheak said.

“Not only that, he looked down the whole court. Generally, he looked down on Cambodian people,” Sopheak said. “He warns us. As a nation, even though we are not rich like the Americans, we do have the same rights.”

The government has asked its embassies and consulates to not issue a visa for Genser, Sopheak said.

Genser was in Cambodia last month and attended a court hearing, at which Chan Theary was dressed as a shackled apsara. His attendance was immediately condemned by a government lawyer group, which released a statement saying Genser was abusive towards the Cambodian judiciary by making political statements and had acted against the law.

Chan Theary could not be reached for comment, but Genser posted online that the development was indicative of how the government was “afraid” of criticism. He said the government was unhappy about comments he made in the media defending his client.

He also denied flouting immgration laws because he had visited tourist sites like the Angkor Wat temples, and had not threatened the judiciary, as claimed by the government.

“I simply said that the charges and trial against Theary violate Cambodia’s obligations under international law and I emphasized that if she were wrongly convicted, there would be serious consequences for the Government of Cambodia,” he said.

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