Conflicts & War

HRW demands ‘immediate release’ of jailed Cambodian gov’t critic

Bangkok, Jan 24 (EFE).- Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Cambodian authorities on Wednesday to “immediately release” a government critic arrested earlier this month over a post on social media.

In a statement, HRW said that Ny Nak, who is in pretrial detention, was arrested on Jan. 5 for a post questioning Labor Minister Heng Sour, and was given “politically motivated charges of incitement to discriminate and criminal defamation.”

On Dec. 17, Nak questioned the Cambodian government’s decision to grant 91 hectares of land in Kampot province to a person named Heng Sour, which a local newspaper identified as the labor minister (denied by the government).

“What achievements has Heng Sour done for the Khmer nation, that the government gave him forest land as his personal property? RIP Khmer forests,” the activist reportedly wrote on Facebook.

Nak, 44, is known for his criticism of the government and served 18 months in prison over a satirical post that the authorities alleged was mocking a speech given by former prime minister Hun Sen, who ruled the country with an iron fist for almost four decades.

In September, Nak and his wife were attacked in Phnom Penh by hooded men with metal batons, and he was hospitalized with serious injuries to his head and the extremities.

At the weekend, Nak’s wife said on Facebook that his health is not good and that he has frequent headaches and dizziness.

Nak alleged that two days before the attack, members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party approached him to join their party and warned him to not be so publicly critical of the government, HRW said, adding that the authorities failed to seriously investigate the incident.

HRW noted that the attack “shared similarities with assaults reported earlier in 2023 against members of the opposition Candlelight Party, which the authorities also never seriously investigated.”

The organization condemned rights abuses committed under the country’s current prime minister, Hun Manet, son of Hun Sen, and urged the government to “protect freedom of expression.”

“Prime Minister Hun Manet is continuing down the same rights-abusing path as his father, and outspoken dissidents like Ny Nak will bear the brunt of that abuse,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.

“Cambodia’s aid and trade partners should ensure that their future engagement with the government is based on tangible and systematic improvements in human rights.” EFE


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