More Jailed Opposition Members Freed

Another 14 opposition party members were released from jail on May 24, with some saying they will stay away from politics. Photo from facebook

PHNOM PENH – Another 14 opposition party members were released from jail on May 24, with some saying they will stay away from politics.

Kong Sam An, Thai Sokunthea, Long Phary, Khim Phana, Sok Chantha, Peat Mab, Keo Thai, Chum Chan, Sun Thorn, Ngin Kheang, Yim Sareth, Nhem Van, Khuth Chrek and Voeun Veasna were granted a royal pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni on May 23 at Prime Minister Hun Sen's request.

Kong Mas, a Cambodia National Rescue Party activist who was the first to be pardoned and has joined the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the 14 were all former CNRP members who were charged with treason in connection with leader Sam Rainsy’s unsuccessful return to Cambodia.

Most of them are the relatives of a group of about 10 women known as “Friday Women” who held a weekly rally for their jailed husbands.

Mas said the jailed members asked their relatives to request a pardon as they could not bear the prison living conditions.

Kong Muoyly, a daughter of Kong Sam An, said she was relieved that her father, now 71, would be released after three years. Sam An had suffered an illness of old age and severe toothache, she said.

Muoyly, 33, said she was happy they had been freed and said her father might quit political activities and spend his time as a normal citizen.

However, she would still be part of the Friday Women and be observing the situation of the relatives after the pardon. “I thank the leader of the upper level for giving pardon to my father,” she said

Licadho operations director Am Sam Ath said there had been a recent movement of apologies and pleas for pardon from the former opposition activists, prompting the release.

On May 12, other nine opposition party members were released after they made a joint apology video and wrote one more apology letter from prison to Hun Sen.

Pardoning them was to ease tensions of the upcoming election as civil groups had been urging the government to free the political prisoners who were convicted on baseless and unreasonable charges, he said.

Sam Ath also mentioned the recent arrest of the three staff of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community who were accused of peasant revolution, being charged with incitement and plotting against the nation.

He pointed out the election exclusion of the Candlelight Party, saying that the party should be allowed to contest the election to prevent the flood of criticism of Cambodia from international organizations.

“To create a favorable environment for the election, the former opposition party members and others charged with unreasonable cases should be freed,” he said.

“The politicians should discuss and turn over the tense situation for free and fair upcoming election.”

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