The United States is deeply concerned by the June 14 mass conviction of some 60 opposition activists in Cambodia, including Cambodian-American lawyer Theary Seng. The sentencing of these opposition activists, many of whom are associated with the disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party, is the latest instance in an alarming pattern of threats, intimidation, and persecution of opposition political leaders and parties.
Convicted of treason, Theary Seng was sentenced to 6 years in prison; the others received sentences of five to eight years. Theary Seng told reporters she was ready for a "sham" guilty verdict. "I am ready and prepared to go to the notorious Cambodian prison for my political opinions, for my beliefs, for my belief in democracy, for my belief in freedom," she said. "I am ready to pay the price of prison in order that I live out my conscience and my belief in freedom and justice."
U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy tweeted out, “We are deeply troubled by [the] verdict against Theary Seng. Freedom of expression and association, and tolerance of dissenting views, are vital components of democracy. We call on Cambodian authorities to release her and other human rights activists from unjust imprisonment.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for 37 years, rising to prominence in the 1980s, after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge regime. The Cambodia National Rescue Party was Hun Sen’s biggest political rival before it was disbanded by a court ruling prior to national elections in 2018 that led to victory for Hun Sen's Cambodia People's Party. Theary Seng and most of the other defendants were charged over a failed attempt by the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party to return from exile in 2019.
“All Cambodians should be able to exercise their human rights, to express their views freely, to assemble peacefully, and to choose their leaders,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. “We call on Cambodian authorities to release all those unjustly detained, including Theary Seng, and protect freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, consistent with Cambodia’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments.”
The United States stands with the Cambodian people and remains steadfast in support of their aspirations for democracy and human rights.