From Canada, Adhoc President Finally Urges Gov’t to Release Staff

Breaking months of silence since shortly after his organization was rocked by the imprisonment of four of its senior staff last May, the president of rights group Adhoc has called on the government to release its political prisoners.

Thun Saray had fallen off the public radar since the arrests, having left the country for an “extended mission” to Canada. He failed to appear in court for questioning in October over the case against his four employees, who face bribery charges over a sex scandal involving CNRP President Kem Sokha, and his own staff had reported that they rarely heard from him.

Thun Saray speaks during a news conference at Adhoc’s headquarters in Phnom Penh in April last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

In a 13-minute video uploaded to Facebook from Canada on Tuesday, Mr. Saray urged the government to stop its legal assault on critics.

“The ruling party continues to use political restrictions against freedom of expression and puts pressure on the opposition party, taking our country away from the principle of liberal multiparty democracy,” he said.

“I suggest the ruling party soften its political stance and turn to dialogue with the CNRP in order to find a political resolution that leads to the release of all political prisoners,” he said.

Mr. Saray then warned the CPP that its tactics could backfire, by likening the political situation to a film plot. “The audiences hate the bad or evil characters and they pity the unlucky or tragic heroes,” he said.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan dismissed Mr. Saray’s calls for the release of the Adhoc prisoners, saying that those charged with crimes should be punished according to the law.

Adhoc’s head of monitoring, Ny Sokha, his deputies Nay Vanda and Yi Soksan, and senior investigator Lim Mony were charged in May for allegedly bribing Mr. Sokha’s mistress to deny an affair. They have since been held in provisional detention.

“This is what he thinks since the beginning: The prisoners—who are also his officials—he calls them prisoners of conscience, but we don’t know whether they are prisoners of conscience or…the ones who committed the mistakes,” Mr. Eysan said.

The court “has enough evidence to charge them,” he said. “It is not a political case.”

Rights group Licadho currently places the number of political prisoners in the country at 27, including the Adhoc officers.

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