Cambodian activists arrested for allegedly planning a ‘peasant revolution’
Cambodian authorities have arrested four people for allegedly planning to overthrow the government from the north-eastern province of Ratanakkiri. Charges are based on their attendance of a worship organised by the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatens foreign governments and embassies ahead of the July elections.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Cambodian authorities have detained a fourth person in connection with an alleged “peasant revolution” aimed at overthrowing the Cambodian government.
The arrest is part of a wider crackdown against farmers and activists in Ratanakkiri, a north-eastern province, designed to silence critical voices ahead of upcoming elections.
According to local sources, security forces arrested Chan Vibol, an independent researcher, for taking part in a workshop run by the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community (CCFC), a land rights group active in the province.
He was charged with plotting and incitement under articles 453, 494, and 495 of Cambodia’s criminal code alongside CCFC President Theng Savoeun, and advocacy officers Nhel Pheap and Than Hach.
Plotting – which carries a jail sentence of five to 10 years – was added to the charge sheet despite protests from several hundred farmers who walked to Phnom Penh and urged Interior Minister Sar Kheng to intervene and have the charges dropped.
According to CamboJA News, a prosecutor in Ratanakkiri called the workshop a "secret gathering which discussed political issues to cause incitement in farmers to rise up and cause turmoil in society, leading to the overthrow of the government.”
Another government official compared the CCFC meeting to the insurrection by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouges whose regime killed millions between 1975 and 1979.
“Fabricating these bogus charges against prominent civil society leaders shows how far the government is willing to go to silence critics in advance of the Cambodia elections in July,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“There needs to be a chorus of international condemnation targeting Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government to demand an end to these intimidating tactics,” he added.
No one is likely to listen, though. In fact, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told foreign governments to “stay silent” until after the election on 23 July.
“From now until the election, please be quiet,” Hun warned. “Let us use local rules to solve the problem of democracy in Cambodia.”
This comes after Western embassies criticised Hun Sen’s rule and his long-running crackdown on dissent, a deterioration of democratic standards, and the prosecution of more than a hundred opposition parties’ supporters.
Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy recently called the upcoming elections, in which Hun Sen and his party are running without an opposition, a “fake and a sham”.
He called on democratic countries not to recognise their legitimacy, amid increasing repression of critical voices and the exclusion of the Candlelight Party, the only party that has stood up against Hun’s regime.
Before that, in March, Cambodian authorities sentenced another opposition leader, Kem Sokha, to 27 years in prison on charges of conspiring with foreign forces.