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3 Cambodian activists arrested in Thailand ahead of Hun Manet visit

The three, who had acquired refugee status, had planned to hold a protest on the day of Hun Manet’s arrival.

A Cambodian former political prisoner and two other activists associated with the country’s opposition Candlelight Party were arrested in Thailand on Friday, in what they think is the latest example of their government exercising its influence across borders, they told Radio Free Asia.

Kong Raiya, who was jailed twice for his outspoken activities against the government, senior Candlelight member Lim Sokha and opposition activist Phan Phana were caught in an immigration roundup at an apartment complex in Bangkok.

The three activists had recently fled to Thailand to seek asylum and had been granted refugee status, according to Phan Phana, who has ties to the Cambodia Youth Network

They had planned to hold a protest rally next week on the day Prime Minister Hun Manet is scheduled to arrive in Thailand on an official visit.

“I am afraid that I will be deported back to Cambodia,” Phan Phana told RFA Khmer before his phone was confiscated. “The [ruling Cambodian People’s Party] were behind this arrest because the police are asking for details about other activists.”

Kong Raiya told RFA that he was sent to an immigration police station. He said that Thai police worked with the Cambodian government to arrest him because he had criticized Hun Manet, who became Cambodia’s prime minister after his father, longtime leader Hun Sen, stepped down in August.

“The government was angry so I got arrested,” he said, explaining that Thai police might have known his location by tapping his phone or tracking him on the internet. 

Fellow Candlelight Party Activist Khem Monykosal, who is also seeking asylum in Thailand, told RFA that the three activists are detained in immigration detention center in Bangkok. 

“The situation is tense now. Police are patrolling buildings,” said Khem Monykosal. “If we go down there, they will arrest us. I beg the Thai government to give more consideration to refugee rights and stop harming us.”

Thailand should not arrest people who have been granted refugee status, Yin Mengly of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association told RFA.

“The Thai government can’t deport those activists based only on their politics or freedom of expression,” he said. 

The immigration roundup was made just ahead of Hun Manet’s scheduled visit to Bangkok Feb. 7, where he will meet with his Thai counterpart Srettha Thavisin for trade and border talks.  

Dozens of pro-democracy Cambodian activists have fled to Thailand to seek asylum in recent years as the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, has used intimidation and the courts to neutralize the political opposition.

RFA was not able to reach government spokesman Pen Bonaa for comment on Friday’s arrests. 

Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Eugene Whong.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Khmer.


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