- Thach Setha, leading figure of the dissident Candlelight party in Cambodia, has been sentenced to three years in prison.
- Setha’s belief stems from comments made online about former Cambodian Prime Minister Hung Sen and the country’s relationship with neighboring Vietnam.
- Setha was sentenced last month to a year and a half in prison for writing worthless checks, a charge deemed politically motivated by critics of the Cambodian government.
A Cambodian opposition political leader who was sentenced last month to 18 months in prison for issuing worthless checks was convicted and sentenced Wednesday to an additional three years in prison for alleged incitement to commit a crime and inciting racial discrimination. religion or nationality.
Presiding Judge Chhun Davy of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court also ordered Thach Setha, vice-president of the opposition Candlelight Party, to pay a fine of 4 million riels ($1,000).
Opposition parties in Cambodia frequently face government-initiated legal challenges.
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The charge against Thach Setha was based on remarks he posted on social media in January to overseas Cambodian workers about former Prime Minister Hun Sen and Cambodia’s relations with neighboring Vietnam.
Many Cambodians have long suspected that their larger neighbor, Vietnam, intends to annex their territory, and prejudice against ethnic Vietnamese is common. Critics have targeted Hun Sen because of his close ties to Vietnam after he became prime minister in 1985 in a government installed by Vietnam, whose forces overthrew Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.
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Some opposition politicians have used inflammatory anti-Vietnam rhetoric to try to gain support, but the government also pursues politicians such as Thach Setha who simply criticize official policy toward Vietnam.
“It is outrageous and unacceptable that Thach Setha was imprisoned for three years simply for expressing his opinion via a social media post,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. in a statement sent by email.
He said the government’s crackdown on the Candlelight Party under current Prime Minister Hun Manet, who succeeded his father Hun Sen in August, means “no one should be fooled into thinking their government will be better than the one that we saw under his father’s oppressive regime.”
Thach Setha’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said his client would appeal the verdict.
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On September 21, the same Phnom Penh court sentenced Thach Setha to 18 months in prison for allegedly issuing worthless checks in a case his party called politically motivated.