Cambodia: Release of Kem Sokha must be made permanent
Responding to the news that opposition leader Kem Sokha has been released from prison on bail and is now being held under house arrest, Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations said:
“While this is a welcome development, it offers no consolation for the gross injustice that Kem Sokha continues to endure. The fact remains that after more than a year in pre-trial detention, he still faces a set of baseless, politically motivated charges that carry a heavy prison sentence.
“Kem Sokha is now a prisoner in his own home. We call on the Cambodian authorities to drop all charges against him and make his release permanent, full and unconditional. Following reports that he requires hospital care, we also urge authorities to grant him immediate access to adequate medical attention.”
Kem Sokha was arrested in a midnight raid on his home in Phnom Penh on 3 September 2017. He was subsequently charged with “conspiring with a foreign power” – which carries a prison sentence of 15-30 years - under Article 443 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code. He was refused bail and sent to pre-trial detention in the remote maximum-security Correctional Center 3 prison on the border with Vietnam in Tbong Khmum province.
The purported reason for his arrest was a video of a speech he delivered at a Cambodian migrant community centre in Melbourne, Australia, three years earlier. In the video, which was uploaded to Facebook, Kem Sokha spoke of receiving advice on building a political movement from US academics and other experts, which was taken as evidence by Hun Sen’s government that he was planning a US-backed “color revolution”.
No date has so far been set for his trial. The court last month approved his pre-trial detention for another six months, citing ongoing investigations into his case. His family says that he required urgent medical care throughout his year-long stay in prison and still needs medical care.
Kem Sokha’s party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned by the Cambodian government in November 2017, ahead of Cambodia’s national elections.