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The Cambodian government was justified to sentence former opposition leaders in their absence, the statement read
PHNOM PENH--The Cambodian government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee on March 6 responded to comments made by United Nations human-rights experts regarding the sentences handed over by the court in "the 9 November case" trials in the absence of the defendants who are former opposition-party members.
Chin Malin, spokesman for the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and for the Ministry of Justice, said in a press statement that enforcing the law on perpetrators of crimes is not restricting people’s rights and freedom in the democratic space of Cambodia.
"However, the criticism on the court procedure and decision with groundless of law and just to defend the perpetrators is unfair and double standard," he said.
“The 9 November Case” refers to nine former members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)—the opposition party dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017—who live abroad and had announced their intention of returning to the country on Nov. 9, 2020. This triggered series of arrests of former party members in the country even though the nine former CNRP members did not come back.
In the press statement, Malin said that the 9 November event was planned by a handful of overseas politicians led by Sam Rainsy to incite the armed forces not to listen to orders and to revolt against the Cambodian government, to inspire and incite the population across the country to rise and act against the authorities, and to raise funds to support these activities.
"Thus, the 9 November plan is a coup plot, a serious crime that affects national security as stipulated in the Criminal Code of the Kingdom of Cambodia," Malin said
On March. 1, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted CNRP former leaders in absentia on charges related to “attempt to commit a felony” and “attack and endanger institutions of the Kingdom of Cambodia” under Articles 27 and 451 of the Cambodian Penal Code.
The court sentenced Mu Sochua and Eng Chhay Enang to 22 years in jail; and Tiolong Saumura, Men Sothavarin, Ou Chanrtih, Ho Vann, Long Ry and Nuth Romduoul to 20 years in jail. Sam Rainsy was condemned to 25 years in jail and was deprived of his rights to vote and stand in elections.
In a statement issued on March 5, the United Nations (UN) human-rights experts said that the entire process of the trial had been tainted with irregularities and clear breaches of international law, including the fact that the trials were not public. They called on the Cambodian government to reinstate the former opposition-party members their political rights and ensure that all political parties have equal opportunities to participate in political life.
“International human rights law guarantees freedoms of association and expression, as they are central pillar of democratic societies and guarantors of free and fair electoral processes,” the UN human-rights experts said. “The conviction of the nine opposition leaders without clear legal grounds and without presence of the accused raises serious concern about the compatibility of the decision with international human rights law, including the right to be tried by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.”
To this, Chin Malin responded that the democratic space in Cambodia is always open for those who exercise their rights and freedom in accordance with the constitution and law.
On March. 5, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia in Geneva had objected in strong terms to the statement of the UN human rights experts. "Their personal comments, fraught with self-contradiction, selectivity, and politicization with disregard of facts, confuse right with wrong,” the statement read.