Cambodia frees 27 activists, political prisoners

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2-min read
Outspoken union leader Rong Chhun was among those released in the past 12 days (AFP/TANG CHHIN Sothy)
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Cambodia has released 27 activists jailed over charges of incitement against strongman Hun Sen's government as the country prepares to host international talks.

Among those released in the past 12 days were members of environment group Mother Nature Cambodia as well as outspoken union leader Rong Chhun, said Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, on Wednesday.

He said courts reduced their sentences or granted them bail, but the charges against the individuals had not been completely dropped.

Cambodia is due to host an online summit of Asian and European leaders next week.

It also faces growing calls to improve its human rights record as it prepares to take the helm of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2022.

Am Sam Ath attributed the prisoners' release to government sensitivities to overseas criticism.

"Cambodia needs to reduce the political tension and condemnation of its human rights situation," Am Sam Ath told AFP.

Chin Malin, a Justice Ministry spokesman, confirmed the release of the jailed activists, citing the need to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

"This is not about any pressure. The courts did not pay attention to whether they are activists or not," he said.

"If they do activities that violate the court's order, they will face the law and can be brought back to prison."

Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, praised the development and urged European leaders to continue to pressure the Cambodian government to unconditionally free all remaining political prisoners.

The rights group said at least 60 political prisoners remained in custody.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is one of the world's longest-serving leaders and has been in power for 36 years.

Critics say he has wound back democratic freedoms and used the courts to stifle opposition and activists.

suy/lpm/leg

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting