Two Cambodian journalists who had worked for US-funded Radio Free Asia and are charged with espionage were on Tuesday released on bail, a day after a pardon freed four land rights activists from prison.
Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, who is better known by his professional name, Yeang Socheameta, were arrested in November last year and charged with undermining national security by supplying information to a foreign state.
The two journalists were also later charged with producing pornography after police said they found pornographic images on their computers.
They face possible prison terms of up to 15 years.
The pair were greeted by friends and family when they walked out of Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Tuesday evening.
“Frankly speaking, we are not fully receiving our freedom, because we must still present ourselves upon police request,” Yeang Sothearin told journalists outside the prison. “We are continuing to urge the court to drop all charges against us so that we can do our jobs, living our lives as other people do.”
Uon Chhin vowed to stay in his profession.
“I love my job as a journalist,” he said.
Their employer welcomed their release on bail, while also calling for the charges against them to be dropped.
“The targeting and intimidation of anyone who has worked as an independent journalist in Cambodia is a clear violation of press freedom,” Washington-based Radio Free Asia president Libby Liu (劉仚) said. “With today’s development, we hope all charges against them are dropped and their case is immediately dismissed.”
Their arrests came during Cambodia’s crackdown on the media and political opponents before last month’s general election.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party swept the results in a vote widely seen as not fair or credible.
The official voter turnout was high, even though a boycott had been called by the main opposition party, which was dissolved last year by a court ruling seen as biased.
Hun Sen, who has been in office since 1985 and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup, has a record of cracking down harshly when facing a serious challenge, then effecting reconciliation when he no longer feels threatened.
The pattern has kept human rights groups and Western governments off balance and moderates their criticism.
On Monday, four women jailed for participating in Cambodia’s land rights movement were freed under a royal pardon requested by Hun Sen.
One of those freed, Tep Vanny, had led protests against evictions from a lakeshore community in Phnom Penh where the government had granted concessions to develop a luxury residential and commercial community.
In September last year, Radio Free Asia closed its office in Cambodia after operating for 20 years, citing unprecedented government intimidation of the media.
By the end of last year, the government had closed more than a dozen radio stations, some of which had rebroadcast Radio Free Asia’s programs, and the English-language Cambodia Daily was forced to shut down.
The two reporters were no longer working for Radio Free Asia after their office closed, and police initially said they had been detained for running an unlicensed karaoke studio.
However, they were later accused of setting up a studio for the organization and charged with espionage.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ei Rin said it ordered the release on bail as requested by the journalists’ lawyer.
After their release, the two journalists went to a Buddhist temple to get a monk’s blessings, a rite meant to get rid of bad luck.
Their detention had been sharply criticized by rights groups and journalists’ associations.
The Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday said in a statement that it welcomed the journalists’ release on bail, “but they never should have been detained in the first place.”
“Authorities should drop these bogus charges and stop harassing journalists with frivolous accusations,” said Shawn Crispin, the New York-based group’s representative in Southeast Asia.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
BEYOND CULTURE: The US State Department was expected to announce that the Chinese government-funded institutes would have to register as foreign missions US President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing scrutiny of a long-established Chinese-government funded program that is dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture in the US and other nations, the latest escalation of tensions with Beijing. The US Department of State was expected to announce as soon as yesterday that Confucius Institutes in the US — many of which are based on college campuses — would have to register as “foreign missions,” according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The designation would amount to a conclusion that the institutes are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by