Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Two Candlelight Commune Councilors Arrested in Tboung Khmum Province

Um Yet speaks to his supporters in O'Raing Ov district in Tboung Khum province in 2022. (Supplied)
Um Yet speaks to his supporters in O'Raing Ov district in Tboung Khum province in 2022. (Supplied)

Two opposition Candlelight Party commune councilors in Tboung Khmum province were arrested Thursday on incitement charges, allegedly for comments made in a telephone conversation.

The two councilors representing Suong commune — Um Yet and Seang Han — were sent to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison for pre-trial detention on June 8, Candlelight’s acting secretary general Kong Monika told CamboJA news.

Candlelight spokesperson Kimsour Phearith said the two councilors were arrested on incitement charges but added “I don’t know the reason.” He referred questions to the councilors’ defense lawyer Sam Sokong, who could not be reached for comment. 

Han is secretary and Yet is the commune’s second councilor, Candlelight’s Tboung Khmum party chief Eng Sroy said.

“They were arrested for talking on the telephone but I don’t know what they talked about,” he said.

“It is an injustice that they have exercised an opinion through the telephone that they [authority] have considered a serious offense,” Sroy said. “I think the arrest was related to political issues because opposition party officials have always been threatened by authorities,” he added.

Provincial police chief Mon Meakea, National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun, and Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Y Rin did not answer phone calls and could not be reached for comment.

Yet was previously imprisoned on incitement charges in December 2020, allegedly for trying to facilitate opposition figure Sam Rainsy’s return to Cambodia. He was released in December 2021, according to Licadho operations director Am Sam Ath.

On Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged opposition activists to join his ruling CPP party or face consequences.

Speaking to some 10,000 garment factory workers in Kampong Chhnang province, Hun Sen said that he would pardon any opposition activist who agreed to split from Sam Rainsy, the co-founder of court-dissolved CNRP.

“Anyone who has split from [Sam Rainsy’s party], I will forgive, but whoever has joined with him, you will be punished,” he said.

In one of the latest cases of clemency, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith and jailed activist Tum Bunthorn were pardoned on June 1 by King Sihamoni after they requested leniency from Hun Sen. Chanrith had been convicted to a 20 year prison sentence but remained living abroad, while Bunthorn was serving a six year prison sentence. 

Phearith, Candlelight’s spokesperson, said that these defections haven’t impacted the opposition party’s popularity.

“It is their political right, we are not concerned [by defection] because we are unable to participate in the national election,” he said.

Ruling CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan claimed that hundreds of thousands of opposition party’s members and activists have already defected to the Cambodian People’s party.

“We can’t calculate the exact number because right now they are still defecting to the Cambodian People’s Party,” he said.  “People who have joined the Cambodian People’s Party, they all volunteered.”