Urgent Interventions

Ongoing arbitrary detention of 21 protesters and fear for their safety

Case KHM280314

Arbitrary detention/ Lack of propermedical attention/ Disappearance

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) requestsyour URGENT intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of the OMCT has been informed by theCambodian Centre for Human rights (CCHR), a member of the OMCT SOS-TortureNetwork, about the ongoing detention of 21 protesters[1],including four human rights defenders, detained following the violent crackdownsby police and military on protests by garment workers on 2 and 3January 2014[2]. OMCT has also beeninformed about the disappearance of a 16-year-old boy Khem Sophath since3 January 2014 in the framework of these crackdowns.

According to the information received, Mr Vorn Pao, President ofthe Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), which worksfor the promotion of worker’s rights, land and housing rights, Mr Then SaveurnCoordinator of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), Mr ChanPuthisak a famous Boeng Kak Lake activist, and Mr Sokun SombathPiseth, who works for the Centre for Labor Rights of Cambodia, werearrested along with six other individuals on 2 January 2014, during a proteston National Road 4, in front of Yak Jin factory, in Phnom Penh demanding for agreater increase of the minimum wage. 13 others individuals were arrested on 3 January2014 near Canadia Industrial Park. They were all initially charged underArticle 411 “Intentionally causing damage with aggravating circumstances” andArticle 218 “Acts of violence with aggravating circumstances” of the Penal Code2009 facing up to five year’s imprisonment and fines from $1’000 - $ 2’500.

According to the same information received, during the same violentcrackdown by Cambodian security forces, a 16-year-old boy, Khem Sophath, wentmissing and disappeared. He was last seen on 3 January 2014, lying on theground on Veng Sreng road, at the Canadia Industrial Park, with blood pouringfrom what appeared to be a gunshot wound to his chest. More than two monthslater his whereabouts remain unknown, and the authorities reportedly neglectedto conduct any investigation.

Following these events, on 4 January 2014, the Ministry of Interior ofthe Royal Government of Cambodia (“RGC”) issued a press release stating thatthere was to be a ban on demonstrations, assemblies, or marches until “publicorder and security are restored.” On 25 February 2014, the Prime Minister reportedlycommitted to lift the ban. However, as of issuing this urgent appeal, the banwas still in place.

While two individuals, namely Bou Sarith and Yon Sok Chea, who were amongthe 23 protesters arrested early January, were granted bail during a hearing on7 February 2014 and released under judicial supervision the next day, the PhnomPenh Court of Appeal denied bail on 11 February 2014 to the 21 aforementionedprotesters on the basis of ending and preventing crime and ensuring detaineesare available for trial.

On 14 March 2014, the investigating judge informed the lawyers of the 21protesters that the investigation was closed and that he had sent the file tothe court. According to the same information received, the investigating judgechanged the charges against Mr Vorn Pao, Mr Chan Puthisak, Mr Then Saveurn andMr Sombath Piseth, but not against the other detainees. The charges are now onthe grounds of Article 494 and 495 of the Penal Code, which refer to the incitementto commit a felony, punishable with six months to two years of imprisonment. Asof issuing this urgent appeal, no date for a hearing had been set. Furthermore,on 24 March 2014, the Court of Appeal again denied Mr Vorn Pao bail.

According to the same information received, the 21 aforementionedindividuals remain detained at the Correctional Center 3 (‘CC3’), a maximum-securityprison, in Kampong Cham province. The health conditions of some of thedetainees are a serious concern. Mr Vorn Pao, who had earlier a kidney surgery,required a medical check-up in Thailand in February, but he was not able to godue to his ongoing detention. Currently, he would be in pain because of his kidneyand the lack of appropriate medical attention. Mr Sombath Piseth’s left handwas reportedly broken during the protests on 2 January 2014 when he wasdetained. However, he has not received any proper treatment. Mr Chan Puthisakhas reportedly swollen legs because he was not allowed to go outside forexercises for almost 20 days as a punitive measure.

OMCT expresses itsdeep concern about the ongoing detention of the 21 protesters, including thefour human rights defenders, and calls on the Cambodian authorities toimmediately and unconditionally release all of them and to drop the chargesagainst them, as they seem to be aimed at merely sanctioning their peacefulexercise of their freedom of association, assembly and expression.

OMCT recalls the UNHuman Rights Council resolutions 19/35 (preambular para. 11) and 22/10(preambular para. 16), stressing that “peaceful protests should not be viewedas a threat, and therefore […] all States [should] engage in an open, inclusiveand meaningful dialogue when dealing with peaceful protests and their causes”.

OMCT further urgesthe competent authorities to guarantee at all times the physical andpsychological integrity of all 21 protesters and to grant them immediate accessto adequate medical care.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities of Cambodia urging them to:

i. Take all necessary measuresto guarantee at all times the physical and psychological integrity of all 21protesters, and to ensure that they have full access totheir families, lawyers, medical professionals and adequate medical care andcivil society groups;

ii. Carry out an immediate,exhaustive and adequate investigation concerning the fate and the whereaboutsof 16-year-old Khem Sopath and disclose his whereabouts;

iii. Order the immediate releaseof all the aforementioned 21 protesters and immediatelyand unconditionally drop the charges against them, as theyseem to be aimed at merely sanctioning their peaceful exercise of their freedomof association, assembly and expression;

iv. Give clear instruction tosecurity forces to refrain from using force against protestors and to act inaccordance with human rights standards, notably with the United Nations BasicPrinciples on the Use of Force and Firearms;

v. Guarantee the respect ofhuman rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordancewith international human rights standards.


- Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh,Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 36 06 66 / 855 23 88 06 24 (c/o Council ofMinisters), Email:,

- Mr. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-Minister of Interior,Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 21 27 08,

- Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay,cnr rue 204, Phnom Penh; Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 21 61 44 / + 855 2321 61 42 / +855 23 214 441/ +855 23 216122,,

- Mr. Om Yentieng, Minister & President of the Cambodian Human RightsCommittee, Office of the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax:+855 12 81 37 81 / +855 23 21 11 62 or +855 23 88 10 45 (c/o Council ofMinisters)

- Mr. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice, No 240, Sothearos Blvd. PhnomPenh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: 023 364119. Email:

- Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Fax: + 855 23 88 06 24, Email:,

- Ambassador Mr. Ney Samol, Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the UnitedNations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, Case postale 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex,Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74,

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

Geneva, 28 March 2014.

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appealin your reply. Action requested.

[1]Vorn Poa, Then Saveurn, Chan Puthisak, SokunSombathpiseth, Chhim Theurn, Yong Som An, Reth Roatha, Nakry Vanda, Lun San,Teng Chany, Chea Sarath, Mam Piseth, Neup Sokhourn, Phang Tren, Ry Sinoun, HengRatha, Pang Vanny, Pheurn Da, Ros Sophoan and Prong Sarath.

[2] See OMCT pressreleases issued on 8 January 2014 and 11 February 2014, available

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts