Cambodia: Activist sentenced to jail for holding a press conference

Reacting to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s sentencing of Thuy Vy, a member of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF) political group, to 18 months in prison and a three million riel ($750) fine for holding a press conference, Ming Yu Hah, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s South East Asia & Pacific Regional Office, said:  

“This is a deeply unjust and politically motivated ruling. Thuy Vy did nothing but organize a peaceful press conference to call for the release of political prisoners, land rights activists and human rights defenders. His conviction and sentence must be revoked immediately and unconditionally.

“The decision provides yet more evidence of the lack of independence of Cambodia’s judiciary. Rather than stand up for human rights, the courts are increasingly becoming a tool of repression, used by the government to force silence on those who dare to express dissenting opinions.

“The situation is all-the-more urgent as the government intensifies its crackdown on freedom of association and expression in the run-up to the general elections in July. Human rights are increasingly under attack in Cambodia and the international community must take notice.”

Background

On 23 May 2018, Phnom Penh’s Court of First Instance read a guilty verdict against Thuy Vy for organizing a press conference in 2017 which “instigate[d] public anger and cause[d] chaos in society” under Articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian Penal Code. Thuy Vy was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment and a 3 million riel fine.

On 16 May 2017, Vy, then aged 28, was arrested while holding a press conference at a local NGO, the Inter-Racialism High Commissioner. The event called on the Cambodian government to release political prisoners, opposition party leaders, land rights activists and human rights defenders. In addition, it requested a pardon for Sam Serey, the leader of KNLF, and that the UN be involved in organizing the July general election. The Inter-Racialism High Commissioner claimed that, prior to the conference, the government had given them permission to organize the event.