Cambodia: detained labour rights leader, youth denied bail (Update)Event
- Initial Date
- Jun 8, 2021
- Event Description
The Observatory has been informed about the denial of bail to Rong Chhun and Sar Kanika amid a COVID-19 outbreak in many Cambodian prisons. Mr. Chhun, a prominent labour rights defender, is the President of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), and a member of the Cambodian Watchdog Council (CWC) . Ms. Kanika is a member of the youth group Khmer Thavrak  and an ex-member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
On June 8, 2021, Rong Chhun and Sar Kanika were denied bail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which claimed that the crime for which they have been detained affects social security and is therefore unbailable. Rong Chhun and Sar Kanika were not present at the bail hearing as prison officers requested the court to suspend the transportation of inmates to tribunals due to public health concerns. Since mid-May 2021, many Cambodian prisons have been affected by an outbreak of COVID-19. These prisons include Phnom Penh’s Correction Centre 1 (CC1) and Correction Centre 2 (CC2), where the two human rights defenders remain detained, respectively. Rong Chhun and Sar Kanika have been denied access to their lawyers for over four months, raising concerns over their current health condition.
The Observatory recalls that Rong Chhun was arbitrarily arrested at his home in Phnom Penh on July 31, 2020. On August 1, 2020, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged him with “incitement to commit a felony or cause social unrest” (Article 495 of the Cambodian Criminal Court) and ordered his pre-trial detention in CC1. Rong Chhun’s detention came following several public statements he made on behalf of the CWC in which he reported community land loss as a result of the demarcation of the Cambodia-Vietnam border.
Sar Kanika was arbitrarily detained in August 2020, amid a wave of arrests of human rights defenders and activists in relation to their planning of peaceful assemblies that were to take place at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh in September 2020 in order to demand the release of Rong Chhun. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Sar Kanika with “incitement to commit a felony or cause social unrest” and placed her in pre-trial detention in CC2.
The Observatory further recalls that Hun Vannak, Chhoeun Daravy , Tha Lavy, Koet Saray, and Eng Malai (aka So Metta), members of Khmer Thavrak, as well as Muong Sopheak and Mean Prommony, member and Vice-President of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association (KSILA), respectively, remain detained under the same charges in relation to the same acts. Their bail application was likewise rejected by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on May 18, 2021.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of the above-mentioned human rights defenders and reiterates its deepest concern about the Cambodian authorities’ systematic legal harassment to target all critical voices, and about the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, including through increasing obstacles to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Cambodia.
The Observatory is further concerned about the risks for the health of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the overcrowded Cambodian prisons and calls on the authorities to immediately take all necessary measures to ensure their access to adequate healthcare and protective equipment, and reduce the prison population through the adoption of non-custodial measures.
The Observatory urges the Cambodian authorities to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Rong Chhun, Sar Kanika, Hun Vannak, Chhoeun Daravy, Tha Lavy, Koet Saray, Eng Malai (aka So Metta), Muong Sopheak, and Mean Prommony. The Observatory also calls fortheir immediate and unconditional release, along with all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Cambodia, in order to protect their right to health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Right to liberty and security
- Labour rights defender
- NGO staff
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On June 8, 2021, detained Rong Chhun, labour rights defender, and Sar Kanika, youth NGO member, were denied bail upon alleged national security issues by a court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia