Alert: 7 people are still imprisoned 1 year after crackdown on human rights in Belarus
Cambodia
20.05.21
Urgent Interventions

Cambodia: Ongoing arbitrary detention of Khmer Thavrak and Khmer Student Intelligent League Association members

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
KHM 003 / 0920 / OBS 107.1
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Cambodia
May 20, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Hun Vannak, Ms. Chhoeun Daravy, Mr. Tha Lavy, Mr. Koet Saray, and Ms. Eng Malai (aka So Metta), members of Khmer Thavrak[1], Mr. Muong Sopheak and Mr. Mean Prommony, member and Vice President of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association (KSILA)[2], respectively.

On May 18, 2021, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court rejected the bail application of the above-mentioned seven human rights defenders to ensure that they would attend their trial, which has not yet been scheduled. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, Koet Saray, Hun Vannak, Tha Lavy, Mean Prommony, and Muong Sopheak remain detained in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1 (CC1), while Chhoeun Daravy and So Metta are detained in Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 2 (CC2).

The Observatory recalls that Hun Vannak, Chhoeun Daravy, Tha Lavy, So Metta and Muong Sopheak were arbitrarily arrested in August and September 2020 for participating in a protest calling for the release of a prominent union leader Rong Chhun and other human rights defenders. Mean Prommony and Koet Saray were arrested on September 6, 2020, for planning a peaceful assembly at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, which was eventually canceled by the police. They were all subsequently charged with “incitement to commit a felony or cause social unrest” (Articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian Criminal Code) and placed under pre-trial detention. If convicted, they could face up to two years in prison and a 4,000,000 Riels (approximately 825 Euros) fine.

The Observatory further recalls that human rights defender Sar Kanika was also arbitrarily arrested in September 2020 as a result of protests calling for the release of human rights defenders. She subsequently appeared in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal court for the same charges, remains in pre-trial detention center CC2 since then.

The Observatory further notes that Mother Nature3 members Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, and Alejandro González-Davidson, and Khmer Thavrak member Chea Kunthin were sentenced on May 5, 2021 to prison terms ranging from 18 to 20 months for planning to attend peaceful demonstrations.

The Observatory expresses once again its deepest concern about the Cambodian authorities’ systematic legal harassment to target all critical voices, including human rights defenders, and about the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, including through increasing obstacles to the exercise of freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly in Cambodia.

The Observatory calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all above-mentioned human rights defenders since their detention is arbitrary and seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Cambodia to urge them to:

  1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Messrs. Rong Chhun, Hun Vannak, Tha Lavy, Koet Saray, Mean Prommony, Thun Ratha, Alejandro González-Davidson and Muong Sopheak, and Mses. Sar Kanika, Chhoeun Daravy, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, So Metta and Chea Kunthin and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia;
  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Rong Chhun, Hun Vannak, Tha Lavy, Koet Saray, Mean Prommony, Thun Ratha, and Muong Sopheak, and Mses. Sar Kanika, Chhoeun Daravy, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey and So Metta, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;
  1. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Messrs. Rong Chhun, Hun Vannak, Tha Lavy, Koet Saray, Mean Prommony, Thun Ratha, Alejandro González-Davidson and Muong Sopheak, and Mses. Sar Kanika, Chhoeun Daravy, Long Kunthea, Phoun Keo Reaksmey, So Metta, Chea Kunthin and all other human rights defenders in Cambodia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
  1. Guarantee, at all times, the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association, as enshrined in international human rights law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh / cppparty@gmail.com
  • Mr. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: moi@cambodia.gov.kh
  • Mr. Keut Rith, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: info@moj.gov.kh
  • Mr. Prak Sokhon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Email: mfaic@mfa.gov.kh / mfaicasean@mfaic.gov.kh
  • Mr. Suon Visal, President of the Cambodian Bar Association. Email: info@bakc.org.kh
  • Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, May, 20, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
  • Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39


[1] Khmer Thavarak is a youth group, set up in early 2020, which advocates against social injustices and raises concerns about pressing environmental issues.

[2] KSILA is a group that works on mobilising and building capacity, to increase students’ participation in social development, good government, and sustainable use of natural resources

3 Mother Nature is an environmental rights grassroots organisation that was officially de-registered in September 2017 but continues its activities as a movement of concerned citizens.

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