‘Mockery of justice’: Cambodia’s Rainsy will get 25-year jail time period | Politics Information
Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia to 25 years in prison for allegedly overthrowing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
Rainsy was convicted of “an (attempted) attack in Cambodia in 2019,” Y Rin, a Phnom Penh District Court spokesman, told AFP on Monday, refusing to provide further details.
The court also deprived Rainsy of the right to vote and stand for election, the official said.
“Once again, Cambodia’s politically controlled judiciary is mocking justice rather than defending it,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Tuesday.
He added that the case against Rainsy was based on “false, politically motivated allegations of a dictatorial one-party state.”
Aside from Rainsy, opposition colleagues Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Eang were sentenced to 22 years in prison, according to pro-government media company Fresh News.
Rainsy said the verdict could not be taken seriously. “It’s just a political statement made out of weakness and fear,” he wrote on Twitter.
Rainsy’s wife, Tioulong Saumura, and five other former senior officials from the Cambodian National Rescue Party, which was banned before the 2018 elections, were also sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“In each of these political show trials, the temptation is to say that Cambodia cannot plummet in its human rights abuses, but somehow Prime Minister Hun Sen and his colleagues are finding a way to achieve a new nadir,” Robertson said.
“There seems to be no limit to the human rights abuses this government will inflict on the Cambodian people.”
1/2 A prison sentence from a government controlled court cannot be taken seriously. It’s just a political statement born of weakness and fear. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen fears that I might return to the Cambodian political scene. #SamRainsy pic.twitter.com/bq6aT21PVv
– Rainsy Sam (@RainsySam) March 1, 2021
“Lack of due process”
In a statement, US Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy said Washington was “concerned” about the “lack of due process” sentences.
“We urge the authorities to reopen the political space and to hear all voices and to participate.”
Rainsy has lived in exile in France since 2015 to avoid jail time for several other beliefs that he considers politically motivated.
In 2019 he tried to return home and fly through Malaysia. However, he was prevented from continuing his flight to Phnom Penh.
In his statement, Rainsy said the recent prison sentence shows Hun Sen’s fear of any opposition.
In 2019, Sam Rainsy was also prevented from checking in for a flight from Paris to Bangkok [File: Charles Platiau/Reuters]”Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen fears that I might return to the Cambodian political scene,” he said.
“Hun Sen fears the prospect of free and fair elections that would inevitably lead to the end of his current autocratic regime.”
One of the longest-serving leaders in the world, Hun Sen has held power for 36 years using methods that critics say include imprisoning political opponents and activists.
He said he viewed Rainsy’s planned return in 2019 as an “attempted coup”.
Since the July 2018 elections, when the Hun Sen party won every parliamentary seat in a vote without credible opposition, the Cambodian authorities have stepped up arrests of former members of the disbanded opposition party, human rights defenders and dissenting voices.
About 150 opposition and activists have been tried on high treason and incitement charges, mainly for exchanging messages on social media platforms supporting Rainsy’s attempt to enter the country.
While many opposition politicians have fled Cambodia for fear of arrest, the country’s main opposition leader, Kem Sokha, is facing a separate treason trial that was postponed indefinitely last March.