IRI Statement on the Release of Cambodian Democracy Activists

Washington, DC – “We are relieved to learn the news from Cambodia this morning that Kem Sokha, Pa Nguon Teang, Mom Sonando and Rong Chhun have been released from prison following Yeng Virak’s release on January 11.  Their freedom from the confines of a jail cell does not change however the fact that they were arrested for peacefully expressing their views.  The abuse of power by Hun Sen and his regime to charge them – and free them – in such a capricious fashion in the first place reminds us that democracy and human rights in Cambodia still has a long road to follow. In a democracy, human beings are not freed as ‘a gift’ to visiting foreign officials.

“Now comes the hard work of encouraging the international community to remain engaged, not only the diplomatic representatives, especially those that will be examining Cambodia’s progress and merit for development funding at the Consultative Group meetings in March, but corporate sector representatives as well, who need to consider carefully the climate in which their investments are trying to find roots.

“For Cambodia to be a true democracy, its citizens must be able to express themselves without fear of imprisonment, and further actions must be made by Hun Sen’s government to guarantee respect for basic human rights.  Hun Sen should start by dropping the remaining charges against all the democracy activists he has targeted over the last year.”

Other Links of Interest:

Statement of Yeng Virak (PDF)
IRI Statement on Recent Arrests in Cambodia
CCHR Report on the Arrests of Kem Sokha and Yeng Virak (PDF)

Other Statements in Support of Sokha and Virak:

Statement of Senator Mitch McConnell on Cambodia (PDF)

Senate Resolution 353, Expressing Concern about Democratic Freedom and Justice in Cambodia (PDF)

King of Cambodia showed solidarity with persecuted civil rights activists, Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (PDF)

World Bank Statement on Cambodia

Cambodia: Hun Sen Systematically Silences Critics, Human Rights Watch Statement

Media Coverage of the Arrests:

While in U.S., Cambodians Get a Lesson on Rights From Home, By Nora Boustany
The Washington Post, 02/01/2006

Release of Cambodian critics not enough: rights groups
Agence France-Presse, 01/18/2006

Top Cambodian rights activist says he remains determined to defend country’s freedom
Associated Press, 01/18/2006

Cambodia frees 4 government critics from prison
USA Today, 01/17/2006

Cambodia progress slips
The Washington Times, 01/13/2006

Cambodian Leader Cracks Down in Bid to Solidify Power
The New York Times, 01/09/2006

Third Cambodian rights activist charged with defaming PM Hun Sen
Agence France-Presse, 01/05/2006

Another rights activist arrested in Cambodia, two more briefly detained
Agence France-Presse, 01/04/2006

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