Cambodia: Treatment of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) members by government authorities and members of the Cambodian People's Party (2007 - April 2010)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||1 June 2010|
|Citation / Document Symbol||KHM103342.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Cambodia: Treatment of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) members by government authorities and members of the Cambodian People's Party (2007 - April 2010), 1 June 2010, KHM103342.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dd118af2.html [accessed 20 September 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Treatment of Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) members prior to 2008 elections
Human Rights Watch states that the 2008 national elections were marked with efforts made by the ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) to pressure opposition members, more specifically Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) members, to "defect" to the CPP (24 July 2008). Human Rights Watch indicates that hundreds of opposition members joined the CPP after it offered "lucrative" government positions or threatened those who refused with arrest or violence (24 July 2008). The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) corroborates this information reporting that during the 2008 national elections, many members of the SRP were lured by offers of public office to defect to the CPP, and that other members were beaten, intimidated and threatened (9 May 2008). The Phnom Penh Post reports that opposition lawmakers state that claims of defection to the CPP are false (26 Apr. 2010). An SRP spokesman stated that he had contacted the party's members in Takeo and that there had been no reports of defections (Phnom Penh Post 26 Apr. 2010). The SRP spokesman also disputed the accuracy of a statement made by Hem Heng (the Cambodian ambassador to the United States (US)) who said that " between 400 and 500 Cambodian-American SRP members had defected to the CPP during the Khmer New Year holiday" (ibid.).
An election monitoring report cited by the AHRC indicates that, in 2007, there were 51 cases of threats against non-ruling parties, 29 of which were against the SRP (AHRC 9 May 2008). The AHRC reports that on 22 March 2008, one SRP Member of Parliament (MP) was assaulted by a district security force made up of 20 men while he was protecting an SRP banner (ibid.).
The Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia reports that a veteran reporter, who had worked for the SRP-affiliated newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience) and who was known for his articles on government corruption and for articles critical of the CPP was killed in July 2008 along with his son (UN 11 July 2008). The Asia Director at Human Rights Watch stated that the "killing appears to have been timed just before the election to have the maximum chilling effect on journalists, opposition party supporters, and human rights monitors" (24 July 2008).
The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (Ligue cambodgienne pour la promotion et la défense des droits de l'homme, LICADHO) a Cambodian non governmental organization (NGO), which promotes respect for political and civil rights and the protection of human rights in Cambodia (LICADHO n.d.), states that "the government and the courts have been criticized repeatedly for resorting to the use of defamation and disinformation charges to restrict the freedom of expression" (LICADHO 9 July 2009). In May 2006, prison sentences for the charge of defamation were removed from the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) Criminal Code (LICADHO 9 July 2009). Freedom House corroborates this information stating that since 2006, defamation is no longer a criminal offence; however, "spreading disinformation" is an offence which can result in imprisonment for a period of up to three years (2010).
Politically motivated criminal charges against Sam Rainsy Party members and supporters
Human Rights Watch alleges that politically motivated criminal charges are used as part of the government's campaign to coerce members of the SRP to become members of the CPP with the intention of weakening the SRP (22 Mar. 2008). LICADHO reports that some SRP MPs have been stripped of their immunity as a prelude to charging them with offences that LICADHO indicates stem from expressing their opinions publically (16 Nov. 2009). On 16 November 2009 Sam Rainsy (the SRP leader) was stripped of parliamentary immunity (LICADHO 16 Nov. 2009). On 22 June 2009, two other parliamentarians, Ho Vann and Mu Sochua, were also stripped of their immunity (ibid.). Phnom Penh Post reports that five months after a Municipal Court judge ruled that there was inadequate evidence to find Ho Vann guilty of defamation; his immunity was reinstated (8 Mar. 2010).
Human Rights Watch reports that on 27 January 2010, Sam Rainsy was convicted on charges of "racial incitement and destroying demarcation posts" (28 Jan. 2010). Sam Rainsy was tried in absentia, fined 8 million riels [1 Cambodian Riel = 0.000240305 Canadian dollars (XE.com 15 Apr. 2010)] and sentenced to two years in prison (Human Rights Watch 28 Jan. 2010). In addition, as a result of removing border markers Rainsy and two others were ordered to pay 55 million riels (approximately 13,000 US dollars) (ibid.). Human Rights Watch reports that Rainsy's trial did not meet international standards and that the court denied the leader his right to examine the evidence against him or defend himself (ibid.). Furthermore, the trial was closed to the general public, journalists and human rights organizations (ibid.).
Human Rights Watch cites the case of a commune chief in Kampong Thom province and member of the SRP who was arrested based on allegations that he forcibly detained and prevented another party activist from defecting to the CPP (22 Mar. 2008). Following a day and a half of detainment, the SRP member was " charged with being an accomplice to the illegal confinement of the party activist, and sent to pre-trial detention at Kompong Thom prison" (Human Rights Watch 22 Mar. 2008). LICADHO indicates that on 20 March 2009, the SRP commune chief was convicted of kidnapping and illegal confinement and sentenced to three years' imprisonment (22 Mar. 2009). In addition, three other provincial SRP officials, who at the time of the trial were in hiding, were convicted in absentia of the same charge and sentenced to three to five years imprisonment (LICADHO 22 Mar. 2009).
Sources indicate that a SRP MP was found guilty of defamation charges for trying to sue the Prime Minister (AHRC 3 Aug. 2009; VOA 4 Aug. 2009). The SRP MP "was ordered to pay 8.5 million riel, or $2,125, in fines to the state and 8 million riels, or $2,000 to Hun Sen" (ibid.).
LICADHO corroborates this information and reports that following the defamation verdict, "police attempted to violently disperse" SRP MPs and SRP members while they were marching from the court towards their headquarters (LICADHO 4 Aug. 2009).
Voice Of America reports that after the MP's first lawyer quit, as a result of defamation charges filed against him, the SRP MP could not find any representation (4 Aug. 2009). LICADHO similarily indicates that the MP's lawyer "was intimidated into withdrawing from the case" (4 Aug. 2009). Human Rights Watch corroborates this information stating that the lawyer representing the SRP MP, after being threatened with disbarment and being sued for defamation, stopped representing the MP and defected to the CPP (16 July 2009).
An article by Human Rights Watch lists cases where SRP activists were sentenced and threatened, including an incident that occurred in June 2009 when a SRP youth activist was convicted after writing slogans criticizing the government on the outside walls of his home (14 July 2009). LICADHO corroborates this information and adds that the activist was detained for two days, placed on trial and convicted of defamation (LICADHO 11 June 2009). He was sentenced to pay the government 5 million riels as compensation (LICADHO 11 June 2009).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). 3 August 2009. "Cambodia: The Odds Are Stacked Against Fair Trial for Opposition Parliamentarian Mu Sochua."
_____. 11 June 2008. "Cambodia: Unlawful Arrest of a Newspaper Editor in Phnom Penh."
_____. 9 May 2008. "Cambodia: The Cambodian Government Must Act Against All Violence and Ensure Equal Treatment of All Political Parties."
Freedom House. 2010. "Cambodia" Countries at the Crossroads 2010. <<http://www.freedomhouse.org/modules/publications/ccr/modPrint Version.cfm?edition=9&ccrpage=43&ccrcountry=179> [Acessed 3 May 2010]
Human Rights Watch. 28 January 2010. "Cambodia: Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy's Trial a Farce."
______. 14 July 2009. "Cambodia: End Assault on Opposition, Critics."
_____. 24 July 2009. "Cambodia: Threats, Intimidation Mar Campaign-Unequal Media Access Hampers Opposition Parties."
_____. 22 March 2008. "Cambodia: Opposition Officials Arrested to Sway Elections-Government Campaign to Coerce Defections to Ruling Party."
Ligue cambodgienne pour la promotion et la défense des droits de l'homme (Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, LICADHO). 16 November 2009. "CCHR, CLEC, NICFEC and LICADHO."
_____. 4 August. 2009. "Mu Sochua Verdict: Another Blow to Cambodian Democracy."
_____. 9 July 2009. "Cambodian Opposition-affiliated Journalist Jailed for Disinformation."
_____. 11 June 2009. "Freedom of Expression in Cambodia is Deteriorating."
_____. 22 March 2009. "Conviction of SRP Commune Chief: Courts Used for Political Purpose."
_____. N.d. "About Us."
The Phnom Penh Post. 26 April 2010. Vang Sokheng. "SRP Accuses CPP of 'Making Up' Defections."
_____. 8 March 2010. Chhay Channyda. "Assembly Reinstates Ho Vann's Immunity."
United Nations (UN). 11 July 2008. Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia. "Killing of Khim Sambor and His Son on 11 July 2008."
Voice of America (VOA). 4 August 2009. Chun Sakada. "Mu Sochua Fined in Defamation Case."
XE.com. 15 April 2010. "Universal Currency Converter." <<http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi?Amount=1&From=KHR&To=CAD&x=48&y=12> [Accessed 15 Apr. 2010]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) did not respond to a request for information within the time constraints of this Response.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC news), Cambodia Health and Human Rights Alliance, Europa World, Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld, Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), Sam Rainsy ANZ, United States (US) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), US Department of State.