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Cambodia: Fear for safety

, N° d'index: ASA 23/021/1997

Cheng Sokna, Director of the newspaper Kamnet Kaun Khmer, Vutha, publisher of the newspaper Sangruos Khmer: There is concern for two journalists who have been missing for several days and are believed to have been arrested because of their connections with people loyal to First Prime Minister Prince Ranariddh, who was ousted in a violent coup over the weekend of 5-6 July 1997.

EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 23/21/97
UA 209/97 Fear for safety 11 July 1997
CAMBODIACheng Sokna, journalist
Vutha, journalist
Cheng Sokna and Vutha, two Cambodian journalists, have been missing for several
days. It is believed that they may have been arrested because of their
connections with people loyal to First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh,
who was ousted in a violent coup over the weekend of 5-6 July 1997. Amnesty
International fears for their safety if they are in custody; the organization
has evidence that a deliberate campaign to silence critics of Second Prime
Minister Hun Sen is taking place throughout Cambodia.
Cheng Sokna is the Director of the newspaper Kamnet Kaun Khmer, and is known
to have had links with Hor Sok, a senior FUNCINPEC politician who was arrested
and killed on 7 July. Vutha is the publisher of the newspaper Sangruos Khmer,
another newspaper which apparently received funds from Hor Sok in the past.
Cheng Sokna was the apparent target of an assassination attempt in January
1997, when seven policemen beat up and shot his brother Leng Sam Ang, while
looking for Cheng Sokna. Violent attacks on journalists critical of the
government have occurred with increasing frequency in the last three years
in Cambodia.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Cambodia has had a coalition government since elections organized by the United
Nations in 1993. The two main parties in the coalition were FUNCINPEC, led
by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), led by
Hun Sen. In recent months the coalition has been increasingly fragile as
relations between the two prime ministers has become ever more hostile. Prince
Ranariddh left the country on 4 July, ostensibly for a private visit to France,
though it later transpired he had been warned of forthcoming violence. CPP
forces loyal to Hun Sen launched violent attacks in the capital on 5 July and
fighting continued throughout the weekend. By 7 July the capital was in the
hands of CPP troops. Sporadic fighting has also been reported in provincial
areas in the last four days. Hundreds of FUNCINPEC soldiers and officials
are believed to be in detention, and Amnesty International believes that at
least nine people have been extrajudicially executed since 6 July.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes/telegrams/express/airmail letters in
English or French or your own language:
- asking for information on the whereabouts of Cheng Sokna and Vutha;
- urging that, if they are in detention, they be protected from any form of
ill-treatment;
- asking for information about any charges that may be lodged against them,
and urging that if they are detained solely for their conscientiously held
peaceful political views, they be released immediately and unconditionally;
- asking for assurances that no journalist or editor from newspapers opposed
to the CPP will be targeted because of their political views.
APPEALS TO:
HE Hun Sen
Second Prime Minister
Office of the Council of Ministers
2
Phnom Penh
Cambodia
Faxes: + 855 23 42 6134 (if voice, ask for fax)
Telegrams: HE Hun Sen, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Salutation: Your Excellency
HE Sar Kheng
Minister of Interior
Office of the Council of Ministers
Phnom Penh
Cambodia
Faxes: +855 23 42 6144 (if voice, ask for fax)
Telegrams: HE Sar Kheng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Salutation: Your Excellency
HE Tea Banh
Minister of Defence
Office of the Council of Ministers
Phnom Penh
Cambodia
Telegrams: HE Tea Banh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Salutation: Your Excellency
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of CAMBODIA accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 24 August 1997.

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