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Prison sentences for opposition members demonstrate that Hun Manet is following in his father’s footsteps, Southeast Asian MPs say

27/10/2023

Prison sentences for opposition members demonstrate that Hun Manet is following in his father’s footsteps, Southeast Asian MPs say

JAKARTA – Lawmakers from Southeast Asia strongly condemn the recent sentencing of Cambodian opposition leaders and activists to up to eight years imprisonment for posting comments criticizing the government on social media and urge the international community to take action against the continuing repression of the Cambodian people.

Hun Manet has attempted to portray himself as a new start for Cambodia. These most recent sentences against members of the opposition for making comments on social media prove that his regime is just as draconian and anti-democratic as his father’s was,” ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Co-Chair and former Malaysian MP Charles Santiago said today.

On 18 October, Candlelight Party vice president Thach Setha was sentenced to three years imprisonment for alleged incitement to commit a felony and incitement to discriminate on the basis of race, religion or nationality, based on social media comments he made that criticized the Cambodian government’s policy on Vietnam. 

On 24 October, four former opposition parliamentarians in exile, Sam Rainsy, Mu Sochua, Eng Chhai Eang, and Ho Vann – the latter three of whom are APHR members – were sentenced to eight years imprisonment and a five-year ban from running for office for alleged incitement and conspiracy to commit treason. They were charged in relation to a series of Facebook comments about whether Cambodians should temporarily stop paying loans during COVID-19 as well as another set of Facebook comments about high-ranking Cambodian officials buying citizenships in Cyprus. Eight other opposition activists were also found guilty in the same case and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

The charges brought against these opposition members are patently absurd and do not bear scrutiny. These clearly politically-motivated prosecutions reveal a government that is determined to stamp out even the mildest of critics,” said Santiago.

The sentences are a continuation of the repressive policies of former prime minister Hun Sen, the father of current Prime Minister Hun Manet. This year alone, Hun Sen has openly threatened opposition supporters with legal and physical violence, while his regime has shut down one of the country’s last remaining independent media outlets Voice of Democracy (VOD) and sentenced former CNRP leader Kem Sokha to 27 years of house arrest on trumped-up treason charges.

Shortly before the general elections in July, the Cambodian National Election Commission (NEC) rejected the registration of the main opposition Candlelight Party on administrative grounds, in what was clearly a manufactured bureaucratic obstacle designed to block the Candlelight Party from competing in the elections by any means possible. 

We stand in solidarity with APHR members and all other members of the opposition that have been the targets for baseless prosecution and harassment simply for peacefully expressing their political beliefs,” said Santiago. 

APHR is deeply concerned that if these attacks against opposing voices are allowed to continue unabated, any real opposition that may stand against the regime in the upcoming Senatorial Elections in 2024 will be completely decimated and any remaining hope for democracy in Cambodia will be fully snuffed out.

These sentences should shatter any illusions that the international community might have had about Hun Manet,” said Santiago. “We urge parliamentarians in Southeast Asia and worldwide to take legislative action, through a bill or resolution, condemning the human rights abuses of the Hun Sen and Hun Manet regimes and send a clear message to the Cambodian government that its actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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