This May four senior members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, or ADHOC, were charged with bribery of a witness, under the Cambodian criminal code.
Two other individuals, one former ADHOC employee, and a staffer to the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR), were also charged as accomplices, the latter in absentia.
But critics says that ahead of the planned elections, the charges are politically motivated.
Borin Noun meets the families members of those jailed in the capital Phnom Penh.
In the backstreets of a poor neighborhood in Phnom Penh is the home of Ny Sokha, the head of the local rights group, ADHOC.
Sokha was jailed on charges of “bribery of a witness” in early May, in connection to a sex scandal involving the deputy opposition leader.
His wife, Men Leakina, is eight months pregnant, and already caring for five children. And her husband, she says, is innocent.
Three other officers from ADHOC – Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony – were also arrested alongside Sokha. They stand accused of convincing Mr. Sokha’s alleged mistress to lie to authorities about the alleged affair.
Pheav Mey is married to Nay Vanda, one of the men arrested. She is also calling on the government to drop the case against her husband.
“I want the government and the courts to consider the crimes against my husband. He didn’t do anything wrong, he is innocent, and he has been charged without evidence,” May said.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch has condemned the arrests, describing them as politically motivated, and part of a campaign to curtail domestic and international human rights monitoring in the country.
More than 50 NGOs in Cambodia have also criticized the arrests.
The coalition said the actions were “an assault on civil society, ahead of the upcoming local and national elections”.
Lim Mony is the top investigator at ADHOC, with a focus on women’s rights. Just like her colleagues, she has also been charged with bribery.
Her 20-year-old daughter Aun Ponnary is pretty angry about the news.
“What has my mother done? What law has she broken? My mother has been fighting for social justice for twenty years, there is no way she is guilty,” Ponnary pleaded.
High school student San Vathanakwatey is also trying to find out more information about her jailed father, Mr Yi Soksan, an ADHOC investigator.
Her classmates, she says, have encouraged her to fight for justice.
“My classmates hate injustice and they have urged me to stand up for my father. Normally I am very shy but my friends have encouraged me to struggle for my father, because I believe he is innocent,” Vathanakwatey stated.
As yet no date has been set for the trial of the ADHOC investigators. If convicted they could face five to ten years in prison.
But critics say they could be released if there is political reconciliation between the ruling party and the influential opposition party.
International observers and human rights organizations are carefully watching the case.
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