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Charges dropped against Cambodian political researcher

Court decision made after Prime Minister Hun Sen's request on behalf of Seng Sary

UCA News reporter, Phnom Penh

UCA News reporter, Phnom Penh

Published: September 22, 2021 05:20 AM GMT

Updated: September 22, 2021 07:18 AM GMT

Charges dropped against Cambodian political researcher

Seng Sary outlined six hypothetical scenarios for the formation of a coalition government. (Photo: Twitter)

A Cambodian court has dropped all charges laid against a prominent political researcher after Prime Minister Hun Sen took a personal interest in the case and asked authorities to consider withdrawing his arrest warrant.

Seng Sary, who lives in exile in Thailand, had outlined six hypothetical scenarios for the formation of a coalition government that included Sam Rainsy from the court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).

This was in response to Sam Rainsy’s recent proposals for the formation of a national unity government, and Seng Sary included references to the short-lived reconciliation in Myanmar between the military and ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Seng Sary was then indicted for supporting Sam Rainsy’s proposed government in exile but Hun Sen said it was clear the analyst was engaging purely in a hypothetical discussion as an academic exercise rather than advocating for Sam Rainsy or the CNRP.

“After listening carefully to Seng Sary's interview with The Cambodia Daily on 18 September 2021, Sary’s explanation of a six-scenario analysis is reasonable and acceptable,” Hun Sen wrote on his Facebook page.

“I would also like to encourage Dr. Seng Sary to continue with his research and analysis of social issues for the benefit of social science research in Cambodia. I would also like to tell his wife, children and parents not to worry.”

Hun Sen has repeatedly rejected accusations the charges were politically motivated 

More than 100 CNRP supporters have been arrested and charged with incitement and in some cases treason over the past 18 months after Sam Rainsy’s failed attempt to return from self-imposed exile and oust Hun Sen in what he described as a peaceful, popular rebellion.

The arrests and a broader crackdown on dissent have upset human rights and pro-democracy groups abroad who have repeatedly called for the release and the dropping of any charges laid against any people critical of the government.

Hun Sen has repeatedly rejected accusations the charges were politically motivated and said he could not intervene and secure their release because this would risk compromising the court’s integrity and independence.

A spokesman for Phnom Penh Municipal Court noted Hun Sen had only asked the court to consider withdrawing the arrest warrant issued against Seng Sary, which did not constitute interference with the independence of the judiciary.

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Following the dissolution of the CNRP, Hun Sen’s long ruling Cambodian People’s Party won every seat contested at national elections in 2018. The next election is slated for mid-2023.

The government-friendly online news portal Fresh News reported Seng Sary had thanked Hun Sen for accepting his interpretation of the six-scenario analysis.

Hun Sen recently gatecrashed an online Zoom meeting held by Sam Rainsy and his supporters who the prime minister has warned not to commit acts of treason.

Fresh News reported Hun Sen had said his presence was “not to hold political negotiations with the opposition but to send out his message that his men are everywhere.”

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