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Cambodia considers opposition request for clemency

Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked the justice ministry to drop charges against 10 politicians from a banned opposition party

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: September 30, 2021 08:15 AM GMT

Updated: September 30, 2021 08:22 AM GMT

Cambodia considers opposition request for clemency

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures during a press conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Sept. 17. (Photo: AFP)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has referred a request to drop all charges against 10 former opposition politicians to the justice ministry, the government-friendly Fresh News reported.

The report said that Minister of Justice Koeut Rith was “to seek justice” for 10 members of the court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), following a request from its former youth president, Yim Sinorn.

In his letter, Yim Sinorn noted that Hun Sen had recently intervened to drop charges against political analyst Seng Sary, which he said was "a wise move supported by the national and international public."

Seng Sary, who lives in exile in Thailand, was charged in absentia after he outlined six hypothetical scenarios for the formation of a coalition government that included the CNRP.

But the charges were dropped after Hun Sen re-examined the analysis and decided Seng Sary’s outline was reasonable and acceptable and the charges were dropped,

Yim Sinorn, writing from South Korea, said that he and other former members had previously led non-violent demonstrations but they did not support the November 9 Repatriation Movement launched by CNRP leader-in-exile Sam Rainsy.

We were accused of joining the movement, which led Cambodian authorities to issue arrest warrants against us

He was referring to Sam Rainsy’s much-publicized attempt to return from self-exile in France late last year and lead a popular protest across the country designed to oust Hun Sen and his long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

The bid was thwarted after airlines refused him passage to Cambodia. More than 100 people have been arrested since then and charged with incitement and in some cases treason.

Former CNRP leader Kem Sokha is still under arrest amid his trial for treason and the high court has banned 118 of the party’s senior leaders from politics for five years.

Yim Sinorn, a vocal supporter of Kem Sokha, said Sam Rainsy’s movement had incited hatred against the monarchy after he called on armed forces to launch a coup against a legitimate government.

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“For the above reasons, we were attacked by extremists of the court-dissolved CNRP. We were accused of joining the movement, which led Cambodian authorities to issue arrest warrants against us,” he wrote.

The CNRP was dissolved after its leaders refused to accept the results of the 2013 election, which saw them tantalizingly close to winning the popular vote, and made unsubstantiated charges that the poll was rigged.

Violent protests followed that led to a widespread crackdown on demonstrations, the independent press and non-governmental organizations. The CPP then won every seat contested at elections in 2018.

Other former CNRP members have also been “rehabilitated” and are in the process of forming new political parties ahead of the next election due in mid-2023.

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