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Free but battered, the Adhoc 5 are still suffering

Cambodia’s human rights activists symbolize how life is for opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen

Ate Hoekstra and Sineat Yon, Phnom Penh

Ate Hoekstra and Sineat Yon, Phnom Penh

Updated: November 01, 2019 09:23 AM GMT
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Free but battered, the Adhoc 5 are still suffering

Yi Soksan (second left) and fellow Adhoc 5 inmate Ny Sokha (center) are escorted by police into the appeals court in Phnom Penh in 2016. The human rights defenders still suffer after being detained for 14 months. (Photo by Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)

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Yi Soksan remembers it all very clearly. The first three or four months he was in prison he was treated badly and put in a small cell with more than 30 people including murderers and thieves. 

“I was not allowed to have the same break time as other prisoners and when my family came to see me, I still had to be behind bars,” the human rights defender said at his office in Phnom Penh.

After that initial period things started to improve — break times were extended and the pressure on him was reduced. “When they noticed that I respected the rules, they tried to improve my situation,” he recalled. “I was then allowed to meet my detained colleagues.”

About two years ago Soksan was one of Cambodia’s best-known political prisoners. Together with four of his colleagues at Adhoc, one of the oldest human rights organizations in Cambodia, he was sent to prison on a wild accusation of bribing a witness in a controversial case against opposition leader Kem Sokha.

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