Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Jailed Opposition Activists Join CPP on Bail, Receive Government Jobs

Hun Kosal meets with Hun Sen after he was released on bail on April 22, 2023. (Hun Kosal’s Facebook)
Hun Kosal meets with Hun Sen after he was released on bail on April 22, 2023. (Hun Kosal’s Facebook)

Two opposition activists detained for their Facebook posts received government jobs after being released on bail and joining the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Opposition activist Hun Kosal was released from detention on bail Saturday, joined the CPP on Sunday, and by Monday was promoted to undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, according to a royal decree published by government-aligned media Fresh News.

Another opposition activist, Yim Sinorn, joined the CPP last week on bail and was appointed a Ministry of Labor undersecretary of state on Saturday by royal decree after he and his wife asked for Hun Sen’s forgiveness in public apologies.

Both Kosal and Sinorn were vocal supporters of imprisoned opposition figure Kem Sokha, and were detained on the same day in March on charges of incitement and insulting King Norodom Sihamoni for Facebook posts implying Prime Minister Hun Sen had more power than him.

The same day, after making his own apology to Hun Sen, Kosal was released on bail and expressed thanks to Hun Sen on his Facebook page, while calling for the release of other prisoners.

“I would like to ask Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] please facilitate political activists of the former Cambodian National Rescue Party and social activists being detained in prison to get bail so that they can meet with parents and their relatives’ families,” he posted on Sunday. 

“I felt that Samdech Techo had a good attitude full of deep gratitude,” Kosal posted on Monday 23 after meeting with Hun Sen. “I am only a former prisoner who committed an offense against Samdech Techo, but after the meeting, Samdech Techo escorted us to the front of Samdech Techo’s residence.” 

Ministry of Land Management spokesperson Seng Louth and Ministry of Labor spokesperson Heng Sour could not be reached for comment. 

Reached through his Facebook, Sinorn told CamboJA that he plans to use his new government role to help Cambodian workers in South Korea.

“He [Hun Sen] asked me to help by cooperating with the Khmer embassy in South Korea where I used to live and serve people, so he want​s to send me to have the opportunity to serve people,” said Sinorn, who previously lived in South Korea while working as the CNRP’s youth movement leader there.

Kosal did not respond to request for comment.

Political analyst Em Sovannara said that he wasn’t surprised by the defection because it has always happened before the national elections.

“It is a common mechanism for weakening the opposition party,” Sovannara said. He noted that long-serving CPP members may perceive themselves as worth less than former opposition activists who received high level government jobs within days of joining the party.

Ruling CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan could not be reached for comment.