Tuesday, January 10, 2006

RFA Interview with Mr. Kem Sokha's Daughters

The following is a transcript of an interview provided to Radio Free Asia by the two daughters of Mr. Kem Sokha. This transcript was translated from Cambodian by M. Preuk.

January 7, 2006
Radio Free Asia

Chivita (C) of RFA: What are your names and ages?
Kem Monovitya (MV): My name is Kem Monovitya, I am the oldest daughter, I am 24-year old.
C: How about you, what is your name and how old are you?
Kem Sammathida (ST): My name is Kem Sammathida, I am 18-year old.
C: When did you learn about the arrest of your father?
MV: During our trip to come to the US, when we were on the plane that was when my father was arrested. However, we did not learn about it until we arrived in Washington DC, when our aunt told us about this.
C: What are your goals in coming to the US?
MV: I came here because it is my vacation time, and also, I am accompanying my younger sister who came here for her study. Her school starts on January 17 in the US.
C: After you learnt that your father was arrested by the Phnom Penh authority, and he is currently jailed in Prey Sar, what are your thoughts?
MV: When I received the news that my father was arrested by the Cambodian authority and placed in jail, I lost hope and I felt sorry about it. I lost hope, in fact I lost hope in the Cambodian government, and I lost hope that this government cannot help but savagely arrest my father without any clear basis at all.
C: And you ST, what was your feelings?
ST: I am very hurt!
C: Do any of you know the reason why your father was arrested?
MV: Based on what I know, the government is accusing him of defamation.
C: Defaming who?
MV: This issue stems from a banner raised by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) on December 10 during the Human Rights Day celebration. It was a banner written in 2003 by all the people who participated in an event organized in 2003 by CCHR where all the people from all station in life, from all political parties, from all political directions, were invited to write, sign, discuss about the issues afflicting them, their worries, their dissatisfactions, or their satisfactions about the future of Cambodia.
On those banners, people were writing and expressing their opinion. They said they were dissatisfied with the government, the government cannot function, they are dissatisfied with the prime minister, the current prime minister cannot function. These words were used as basis to accuse my father.
C: Do you think these words can be construed as defamation?
MV: I believe that anybody who has a shred of education can understand what defamation is or is not, what critics mean. Therefore, I believe that all these words are merely the expression, the worries and the critics of the people. They were not defamation, furthermore, he is the prime minister, hence a public figure. Public figures, whether there are prime ministers, MPs, or ministers, they are subjected to criticisms by the people on the work they have accomplished. The people have the right to criticize these public figures, their work. These criticisms are normal and necessary in a democracy.
You all must already know that for example, even in the US, during the last election campaign, there were disputes, and President Bush was attacked. One party will attack the other party, that is normal. If all the criticisms are construed as defamations according to International laws, then half of the world population would have to be jailed because they criticized Mr. Bush on the airwave.
Nevertheless, all these public figures, as well as Prime Minister Hun Sen, know that being public figures, people have the right to criticize them, that was never considered as defamation.
C: ST, what do you think about that?
ST: I believe that the writings on the banners are the expressions, the opinions of the people. They were their worries. They are normal issues. When you are a leader, you are subjected to criticisms, therefore he (Hun Sen) should be able to tolerate it. In truth, when he is criticized, he arrests those critics, he needs to build many more jails. Criticisms are normal because they are constructive criticisms so that he may become better than before.
C: Do you both know about your father’s situation in jail? How is his health?
MV: I spoke with my mother yesterday, she met my father in Prey Sar jail. My father was kept in a room without bed, without pillows, without mat, with 4 other convicts, 2 of which are foreigners. When I learnt about this, I was very hurt because my father is a nationalist, and they put him in a cell with criminals, with foreign criminals who raped others. The Cambodian government should not put a hero in a cell with people like this. I felt deeply hurt about it.
C: How about you ST? What do you feel?
ST: I feel the same as my sister, I am deeply hurt when I heard that my father is in jail even though my father did not do anything wrong. My mother said that my father’s health is fine, but morally, my father is deeply hurt. He could not believe the fact that he was incarcerated with criminals when he is only serving the people.
C: Do both of you have any words for Prime Minister Hun Sen?
MV: I would like to tell the Cambodian Prime Minister that since you declared on TV, radio, newspapers, that you support democracy in Cambodia right now, that you want true development in Cambodia, that you want to eradicate poverty, but then you turn around and arrest my father, what you did was wrong. The fact that you consider my father as an enemy is wrong because my father is not an enemy of development, my father is an enemy of poverty, my father is an enemy of corruption. But my father is a friend of development, a friend of human rights, a friend of freedom. If the government is truly sincere in wanting to provide freedom, in developing Cambodia, it should affirm its action by releasing all those who criticize, like my father, Mr. Mam Sonando, Mr. Yeng Virak, Mr. Rong Chhun. That is if the government is truly genuine with democracy in Cambodia.
C: ST, do you have anything to say to Prime Minister Hun Sen?
ST: I want to tell Prime Minister Hun Sen to clearly think about his action, whether it is beneficial or detrimental. The arrest of my father is not beneficial to him (Hun Sen), on the contrary, the people and the international community will have adverse views towards him. What he (Hun Sen) is doing is against a country with the rule of law, he is using his power and the law to arrest those who criticize him. He forgets that these are constructive criticisms, they are not defamation against him. I am also asking the Khmer people to please provide justice to my father and my family because my father did not do anything wrong, he is only serving the people.
C: What are your future plans?
MV: We are currently discussing with all our compatriots residing in the US, Canada, Australia, and other parts of the world in order to organize an information drive so the world knows about that the arrest of my father is a serious injustice, and we are seeking means for the Cambodian government to release my father and the others who are incarcerated.
C: ST, would you like to add anything else?
ST: I would like to tell my family, in particular, my mother: Mom, please stay strong under this duress. Please remain strong … in facing this duress, we will resolve this issue together. As for us, please do not worry, we are fine.
MV: I am appealing to all Khmer people from all political spectrum to love each others, to not persecute your own Khmer brothers/sisters whichever party they belonged to: CPP, SRP or Funcinpec. Please love each others because there is no gain in persecuting your own Khmer brothers/sisters. I would like to wish to everybody a happy new year, may you all find freedom of expression, freedom in everything.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a response to Jem's daughters. What can we do to help your father gain his freedom. Its vital to me that Cambodia should grant basac rights to their citizens.

Nick Mann
Kansas USA
let me if I can help