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Hun Sen Wants Cambodian-American Punished for Paternity Allegations

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the U.S. ambassador in Phnom Penh to take action against a Khmer-American living in the U.S. who questioned the parentage of the strongman’s eldest son.

During a forum on natural resource protection and preservation on Monday, Hun Sen said he would not forgive the man, and that he would have been arrested immediately if he lived in Cambodia.

It was unclear what action Hun Sen wants U.S. Ambassador William A. Heidt to take.

Although Hun Sen didn’t mention a name, a Cambodian-American living in the U.S. named Brady Young posted video clips on his Facebook page in April that included accusations that Hun Manet was the son of Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany and the late Vietnamese military commander Le Duc Tho.

After the posts appeared, Hun Sen accused the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) of secretly engineering the effort and warned that he would not let the CNRP rest in peace, despite an immediate statement from the opposition party disowning the comments.

On May 16, the CNRP dismissed Young from the party and CNRP President Sam Rainsy expressed “deep regret” about the incident.

Vietnam and Cambodia have had a fraught relationship for centuries, but the animosity with Hun Sen dates from the 1979-89 Vietnamese occupation that ended the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Hun Sen emerged and was appointed during the period of Hanoi control over Cambodia.

As Cambodian foreign minister and then prime minister, Hun Sen played an important role in the 1991 Paris Peace Talks that brokered peace among Cambodia’s warring factions.

Hun Manet, the prime minister’s eldest son, is a lieutenant general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. He is often mentioned as a successor to his father.

The prime minister’s relationship with Vietnam has been used by the opposition to raise questions about Hun Sen’s loyalties, and Hun Sen has attacked political opponents who have attempted to make it an issue.

In April, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker Um Sam An was jailed after Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone accusing the government of using “fake” maps to cede national territory to neighboring Vietnam.

In 2015 police arrested Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour after he posted comments on social media that claimed an article in the 1979 Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Treaty was meant to dismantle, rather than define, the border between the two countries.

Although the Sam Rainsy Party merged with the Human Rights Party to form the CNRP, the party still holds seats in the Senate. It is expected to fully integrate with the CNRP after the national elections in 2018.

Sam Rainsy has been living abroad since he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in 2015 because of a warrant issued for his arrest in another defamation case in which he accused Deputy Prime

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Cambodia Convicts, Fines Two Land Rights Activists over Mannequin Protests

Two land rights activists in Cambodia were convicted Monday of insulting a public official for their version of a “Black Monday” protest earlier this month.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea guilty and sentenced each of them to six days of imprisonment and an 8,000 riels (U.S. $20) fine – a verdict the activists and their supporters said is unjust.

“It is very unjust for us as victims,” Bov Sophea told RFA’s Khmer Service in a telephone interview. “We only called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to solve the land issues. I believe the court’s ruling against us is nothing short of an attempt to silence us.”

Bov Sophea and Tep Vanny were originally charged with the more serious offense of incitement to commit a felony for their protest, in which they buried headless mannequins in sand pits to represent the mindlessness of government officials.

Under the new charge, Bov Sophea was released for time served, but Tep Vanny was still being held.

The arrest and conviction failed to dampen Bov Sophea’s enthusiasm as she vowed to continue with the protests.

“Such action only adds fuel to the fire of our wrath,” she said as she called on the government to free Tep Vanny.

“Please release Tep Vanny immediately,” she said. “It’s not acceptable to imprison her.”

‘Who have we insulted?’

Another land-rights activist, Song Srey Leap, told RFA the convictions are nonsensical because their protest wasn’t aimed at a single individual.

“Who have we insulted? We used the headless dummies to refer to the institutions, and not any particular individuals,” she said. “Since they have treated us like that, it means the government colludes with the court officials to protect the corrupt and bad people who have mistreated us.”

An official with the Cambodian rights group Licadho said the government’s only reason to pursue the women was because they are well known for their activities.

“The court’s ruling badly affects people’s rights,” said Lichado official Am Sam Ath. “Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea were arrested and detained because they are prominent activists.”

Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea gained prominence as activists fighting the Boeung Kak Lake land grab, when some 3,500 families were evicted from land surrounding the urban lake.

The lake was filled with sand to make way for a development project with close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Seizure of land for development—often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents— is a major cause of protests in Cambodia and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Laos.

Black Monday began as an effort to win the release of four human rights workers and an election official who were jailed on charges widely seen as attempts to muzzle political opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP.

The protest, which gets its name from the color of the cloths that protestors wear, has become a more generalized form of demonstration.

Hun Sen and other officials have condemned the protests as a “color revolution.”

Over the years, Hun Sen has repeatedly inveighed against “color revolutions,” named after a series of popular movements that used passive resistance to topple governments in countries of the former Soviet Union during the 2000s.

Reported for RFA’s Khmer Service by Sel San. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Brothers Who Fled Cambodia After Kem Ley’s Murder to Return Home

UPDATED at 3:40 P.M. EST on 2016-08-19

Twin brothers who claim to be the last people to have seen independent political commentator Kem Ley alive the day before he was murdered said Friday that they are planning to return to Cambodia to resume their work as environmental activists.

Chum Huor and Chum Huot, environmental activists who were close to Kem Ley, fled Cambodia on July 14, four days after the pundit’s murder and after they had posted criticisms about the murder investigation on social media and provided an account of the slaying to the American embassy in the capital Phnom Penh.

They told RFA’s Khmer Service via phone from Bangkok that they want to return to Cambodia to continue helping those who have been “victimized” by the 260-megawatt Don Sahong hydropower dam project being built on the Mekong River in southern Laos about one kilometer (0.62 miles) upstream from Cambodia.

The brothers have participated in campaigns and protests to stop the building of the dam, which began last December.

Cambodian villagers in Stung Treng, Kratie, and other provinces along Lake Tonle Sap and the river system on which the dam is being built fear that the hydropower project will detrimentally affect their lives and livelihoods because it could block transboundary fish migration routes, harm local and regional fisheries, and lead to the extinction of Mekong dolphins.

“If we go abroad, we will be there for so many years,” Chum Huor said. “We see people living along the Mekong River, and if we don’t help them now, we will feel sad.”

“If we go to a third country we can have an education, accommodations—everything,” he said. “We would have physical dignity, but we would regret not being able to help them and be remorseful about it.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had granted the brothers refugee status so they could live in a third country.

The brothers said they will return to Cambodia soon, but did not specify a date.

Reported by Sarada Taing for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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Brothers Who Witnessed Kem Ley’s Murder to Return to Cambodia

Twin brothers who claim to have witnessed the murder last month of independent political commentator Kem Ley said Friday that they are planning to return to Cambodia to resume their work as environmental activists.

Chum Huor and Chum Huot, environmental activists who were close to Kem Ley, fled Cambodia on July 14, four days after the pundit’s murder and after they had posted criticisms about the murder investigation on social media and provided an account of the slaying to the American embassy in the capital Phnom Penh.

They told RFA’s Khmer Service via phone from Bangkok that they want to return to Cambodia to continue helping those who have been “victimized” by the 260-megawatt Don Sahong hydropower dam project being built on the Mekong River in southern Laos about one kilometer (0.62 miles) upstream from Cambodia.

The brothers have participated in campaigns and protests to stop the building of the dam, which began last December.

Cambodian villagers in Stung Treng, Kratie, and other provinces along Lake Tonle Sap and the river system on which the dam is being built fear that the hydropower project will detrimentally affect their lives and livelihoods because it could block transboundary fish migration routes, harm local and regional fisheries, and lead to the extinction of Mekong dolphins.

“If we go abroad, we will be there for so many years,” Chum Huor said. “We see people living along the Mekong River, and if we don’t help them now, we will feel sad.”

“If we go to a third country we can have an education, accommodations—everything,” he said. “We would have physical dignity, but we would regret not being able to help them and be remorseful about it.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had granted the brothers refugee status so they could live in a third country.

The brothers said they will return to Cambodia soon, but did not specify a date.

Reported by Sarada Taing for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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Cambodia Cranks Up Election Process Raising Fraud Concerns

As Cambodian officials rolled out a new voter registration system on Thursday, questions were raised about the nation’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.

While Cambodian authorities announced a three-month registration process that will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 29, the U.N. ambassador to Cambodia expressed concern that the country’s current political situation could poison the process.

“The European Union has expressed concerns over certain actions of the authorities in implementing legal procedures against the opposition party’s officials, civil society’s representatives, and the National Election Commission (NEC) deputy general secretary,” said Ambassador George Edgar.

“Cambodia’s authorities must ensure an atmosphere that all political parties and nongovernmental agencies are able to do their jobs without obstacles,” he added during a ceremony announcing the launch of the registration system.

NEC Deputy Secretary-General Ny Chakriya is one of five people arrested by the government in its wide-ranging probe into an alleged affair opposition Cambodia national rescue party leader Kem Sokha had with a young hairdresser named Khom Chandaraty.

Staffers with the rights group ADHOC Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony were also arrested in the probe. Ny Chakrya and the activists are charged with bribery or accessory to bribery for allegedly attempting to pay Khom Chandaraty hush money.

The charges are viewed by many as an attempt by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to smear the opposition before local elections in 2017 and national elections in 2018.

While Hun Sen and the CPP have ruled the country for more than three decades, Cambodia’s ruling party suffered a dramatic drop in support during the country’s last election in 2013, and could see even more erosion in the upcoming elections.

Provincial questions

Edgar was not the only one raising concerns, as the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL) also took issue with the transparency of the process.

COMFREL official Sin Tit Seiha said government recruiting of polling officials in Cambodia’s northwestern Battambang province was suspect as he questioned the number of former NEC officials who were selected.

“COMFREL has two projects. First, to observe the registration list once it has been generated,” he said. “We will look into it, then we can make the assessment.”

A Battambang election official disputed that notion, saying the selection of the officials was an open one.

“During the exam, officials from the national level as well as the provincial level came down,” said  Battambang Election Commission Secretary Vorn Porn.

Vorn Porn told RFA that there are many former NEC officials among the 430 contractors who were recruited, but did not give the total.

“The controllers of the exams were from the districts, with three from each district, and commune councils from every political party came to observe,” he explained.

The NEC was revamped last year, as part of a deal in July 2014 which saw opposition lawmakers return to the National Assembly following a 10-month boycott protesting a disputed national election in 2013.

The CPP was declared victorious in the 2013 election, sparking widespread protests and allegations of government control of the NEC, which oversees polls in the country.

Reported by Khe Sonorng and Hum Hour. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Kem Ley's Wife Seeks Legal Assistance in Murder Case that Roiled Cambodia

Bou Rachana, the widow of slain government critic Kem Ley, has decided to take matters into her own hands and has asked a leading Cambodian nongovernmental organization to prepare legal action related to the murder of her husband.

“Dr. Kem Ley’s wife decided to seek a lawyer from CENTRAL to file a complaint to find justice for her husband,” said Moeun Tola, executive director of the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights. CENTRAL is a labor-oriented NGO that aims to give Cambodian working people transparent and accountable governance for labor and human rights through legal aid and other actions.

Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart store in Phnom Penh where he liked to drink coffee with friends.

While authorities charged former soldier Oueth Ang with the killing, many in Cambodia don’t believe the government’s story that he was killed by the former soldier over a debt.

Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.

Kem Ley was buried in southwestern Cambodia’s Takeo province two weeks later after a weekend funeral procession that drew around two million mourners.

Deputy prosecutor and Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophanna who is handling the case, told RFA’s Khmer Service on Thursday that the prosecuting judge is continuing the government’s investigation.

While the government investigation moves ahead, various nongovernmental agencies are gearing up for more action related to Kem Ley’s slaying and preserving his legacy, Moeun Tola told RFA.

In addition to the legal action, NGOs are dividing up into groups that seek to explain the political and human rights situation in Cambodia to the national and international community, place a Kem Ley statue in Freedom Park in the capital, Phnom Penh, and safeguard Kem Ley’s family’s security.

Reported for RFA’s Khmer Service by Tin Zakariya. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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