The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted nine activists including former CNRP officials for incitement to cause social turmoil and sentenced them to between 12 months to 20 months in prison in relation to an October protest outside the Chinese embassy.
Lawmaker Ho Vann and CNRP youth leader San Seihak were convicted to 20 months in absentia, while activists Lim San, 57, Yoy Srey Mom, 50, Ton Nimol, 40, Hong An, 45, were sentenced to 18 months in prison. Sat Pha, 47, Pai Ren, 43, Sann Sreyneath, 41, were sentenced to 12 months in prison. All were fined two million riel ($500).
On October 23, the group protested outside the embassy calling for the Cambodian government to respect the Paris Peace Agreements and oppose a Chinese military presence.
After Judge Ouk Rethkunthea read out the ruling, several of the activists shouted in the courtroom, calling it an injustice.
Pha said that she has suffered from poor health but that doctors in PJ prison refused to treat her as she has no money to pay them.
“I am facing many difficulties in prison, so I am very hurt,” Pha said. “This decision is an injustice for me.”
Another defendant, Srey Mom said: “It is an injustice for me because I did nothing wrong.”
Chey Srey Ny, the wife of Nimol, maintained her husband’s innocence.
“I think that it is very unfair because my husband is innocent and they sentenced him in jail and fined him two million riel,” Srey Ny said. “ I am very hurt and I could not say anything.”
She added that she would ask his lawyer to appeal the ruling.
Sam Sokong, defense lawyer, said he was disappointed by the verdict.
“I think that this decision does not provide justice for them because they just use their rights to express their opinions and gather peacefully and their work is related to the society,” he said. “They did not have the purpose of incitement but they requested [the government to] respect the Paris Peace Agreement.”
He said that he will meet with his clients to discuss whether they want to appeal and will appeal if they wish to do so.
“I think that they just exercised their rights and they were sentenced, so it will make other people who want to defend human rights scared and they will not dare to do any activity to protect themselves,” said Sokong.
Em Sovannara, social and political analyst, echoed Sokong’s statement, saying it was deeply undemocratic to prosecute people for holding a peaceful protest.
“It is not good, it opposes the democratic principle and it can make Cambodian people stop believing in the legal system,” said Sovannara.
“The government has to respond to the people’s requests, if they cannot respond… it means that they will face losing the support from the people and will lose power in the future.”