Cambodian court upholds Christian activist’s conviction

Theary Seng was sentenced to six years in prison in June. An appeal court turned down her request for release pending her petition. The trial for treason against opposition leader Kem Sokha continues.


Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Supreme Court of Cambodia upheld a six-year prison sentence for Christian activist Theary Seng, who was accused of treason for supporting former opposition leader Saim Rainsy and the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), banned by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

For Theary’s lawyer Choung Chou-Ngy, the court decision is an "unfair". Last month, he filed an appeal to the country’s highest court after a Court of Appeal rejected a petition for release while the appeal was under consideration. The court rejected the demand saying that activist’s release would have affected public order.

Theary, a dual US-Cambodian citizen who edited the Khmer-language translation of the Bible, was arrested a first time in 2019 after Sam Rainsy's failed attempt to return to Cambodia from self-imposed exile in Paris. More than 120 activists were arrested at the time.

“This regime will not let me go free,” she said ahead of the June verdict. “It will be an unfair and unjust verdict, because I am innocent, the others charged with me are innocent. But we are living in a dictatorship.”

Along with Theary, more than 50 CNRP loyalists were arrested. The Christian activist, who dressed up as a Statue of Liberty in protest, was not allowed in the courtroom to hear her verdict.

Accused of plotting a revolution to overthrow the government, the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017 and its current leader, Kem Sokha, arrested.

In the elections held the following year, Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won all the seats, prompting criticism from human rights groups.

The crackdown escalated after Sam Rainsy, who led the CNRP along with Kem Sokha, said that he wanted to return to Cambodia in November 2019. Hundreds of activists and political opponents have since been arrested.

A trial for treason is still underway with Kem Sokha in the dock. For human rights groups, this is only designed to silence criticism against the government.