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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jailed Cambodian Publisher Will Appeal

publisher is jailed after his newspaper reports on alleged official corruption, while Human Rights Watch points to what it calls a concerted government crackdown on the opposition.

PHNOM PENH—Opposition newspaper publisher Hang Chakra, jailed for a year after publishing articles on alleged government corruption, is suffering in prison but plans to appeal his case, a source here said.

Hang Chakra is detained in Prey Sar Prison in a cell holding about 50 people, sources said.

He was arrested in Battambang on June 26 while he was in hiding—the same day a Phnom Penh court sentenced him in absentia to 12 months in prison and ordered a 9 million riels (U.S. $2,250) fine for alleged defamation and disinformation.

Am Sam Ath, head of an investigative team for the human rights group LCADHO, said his medical team had visited Hang Chakra and found him suffering from kidney problems.

“He is given medication for that. In addition, he appears stressed and worried,” Am Sam Ath said.

Hang Chakra’s lawyer, Chuong Chongny, also visited him July 13.

“His health is fine. But the important thing is what I should do in this case,” Chuong Chongny said.

“The court will send his documents to the appeals court, and I will defend him…I asked him if he still needed me, and he said he still needs me.”

Hang Chakra’s newspaper, Machas Srok, had published articles alleging corruption in the office of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Human Rights Watch this week urged Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to end what it called a “campaign of harassment, threats, and unwarranted legal action aimed at consolidating its rule by silencing the political opposition and peaceful critics.”

The New York-based organization cited “at least nine politically motivated criminal defamation and disinformation cases against journalists, opposition members of parliament, lawyers, and government critics,” including the case against Hang Chakra.

It also urged Cambodia’s international donors to press the government to stop its heavy-handed harassment of opposition members.

The National Assembly, further, voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of two of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party's (SRP) most active members, paving the way to try them on criminal charges of defamation against Hun Sen and 22 military officials, respectively.

All the recent lawsuits were filed under Articles 62 and 63, new laws which address disinformation and defamation and libel, Human Rights Watch said.

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Jail sentence for temple lighting critic

By Robert Carmichael for Radio Australia

Human rights groups in Cambodia have condemned a two-year jail sentence handed down against the head of a nationalist charity.

The leader of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation was convicted in his absence for suggesting newly installed lighting at the historic Angkor Wat temple complex would damage the 11th century monument's stonework.

Moeung Sonn, who holds dual French-Cambodian citizenship, fled to France in June after the Government announced he would be charged with incitement and spreading false information.

Angkor Wat temple is the pre-eminent symbol of Cambodia and the Government said his comments could lead to civil unrest.

The court issued an arrest warrant for Moeung Sonn should he return.

It is the latest in a series of cases brought by the Government against people it perceives as critics.

One opposition MP said the Government was treating its opponents as "enemies of the state".

Human rights groups are appalled, with one describing Moeung Sonn's sentence as a grave injustice.

More cases brought by the Government are heading to court in coming weeks.
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