19 Dec 2010
By Sek Bandith
Radio Free Asia
Translated from Khmer by Soy
Click here to read the article in Khmer
Civil society organizations are following up on the arrest of Seng Kunakar, the security chief for the WFP rice warehouse.
The Phnom Penh municipal court held a hearing on both Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 Dec in the case of Seng Kunakar, the security chief of the WFP rice warehouse, and it sentenced him to 6-month of jail time as well as 1 million riels in fine ($250).
Am Sam Ath, an investigator for the Licadho human rights organization, who was following up on the case at the Phnom Penh municipal court on Sunday 19 Dec, told RFA that the court handed this sentence based on Articles 494 and 495 of the new criminal code, after Seng Kunakar was charged with criminal incitation because he printed an article that was posted on the KI-Media website and he was accused of distributing the article to his friends.
The article published online and printed by Seng Kunakar contains strong insult on the Cambodian government.
Am Sam Ath said that the sentence by the court is an injustice. “The ministry of Information should make the review, it should review the website and if it finds that it is not right, the ministry of Information should work with KI[-Media], but [the accused] only read [the information] from that website and printed it, then he was arrested and accused like this. We cannot accept this case. It affects the freedom of expression as well, because this has no intention of fomenting unrest, and for this man, he only wanted to open and read the document, then copy it to share with his friend, there is nothing to constitute a crime against him.”
Following the hearing, relatives of the victim did not talk at length with human rights organizations or reporters about this sentence, they only said that they will appeal this case.
Am Sam Ath noted that the new criminal law only came into effect on 11 Dec. He said that the use of the law in this manner is a restriction on the freedom of expression and the freedom to receive information.
Chan Sovet, an investigator for the Adhoc human rights organization, said that his organization is always ready to help on legal matters, in order to intervene in the arrest made against Seng Kunakar for re-distribution of information to his friends.
Chan Sovet criticized the arrest and sentencing of Seng Kunakar as being unreasonable: “I believe that if, it is about criticism of the government, there is no legal charge for that, it is just to express opinion for an improvement. If you are not satisfied with this action, you can demand to put an end to it, this is not a legal case to drag someone to jail, and if there is sentencing on the freedom of expression, I think that it is a violation of human rights and a restriction on human rights actions which we are putting into place right now.”
On 16 December, the website KI-Media posted an article accusing the top government leaders of being traitors who sell land to Vietnam.
sVar Kim Hong, the chairman of the government border committee said that the government is issuing a warning [to KI-Media], but in reality, the government has no intention of silencing any information outlet at all. However, what sVar Kim Hong is accused of, he said that there should be proper basis for that.
sVar Kim Hong told RFA on 16 December that he asked the government to shut down KI-Media starting 31 Dec, soon.
However, he refused to confirm as to whether he will sue the administrators of KI-Media or not. On Sunday 19 Dec, RFA could not obtain information from Khieu Kanharith, the minister of Information and government spokesman, on this complicated affair.
Seng Kunakar, the security chief for a WFP rice warehouse, was arrested by the Russei Keo police on Saturday 18 Dec 2010, he was immediately sent to the Phnom Penh municipal court in the afternoon of the same day, and the court held an immediate hearing in the case. But the court was unable to make a decision, then Seng Kunakar was sent back to detention until the next day – Sunday 19 Dec 2010 – when the hearing was resumed.
Licadho issued a statement in the afternoon of Sunday 19 Dec, only a few hours after Seng Kunakar’s sentencing, calling this sentencing by the Phnom Penh municipal court as groundless and unfair. The statement indicated that the “rushed trial and groundless conviction is further proof of the growing crackdown on freedom of expression by the Cambodian government.”