A Cambodian woman released on Wednesday after serving four years in prison for posting a video of her throwing a shoe at a poster of Prime Minister Hun Sen said she took out a loan to pay the fine imposed to secure her release.
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) supporter Sam Sokha was arrested in Thailand in February 2018 by Thai authorities and forced to return to Cambodia despite having previously been granted refugee status by the UN agency United for Refugees.
The former factory worker faced another six months in prison unless she could raise 10 million riels ($2,460) to pay the fine imposed this week by the Kampong Speu Provincial Court. But after collecting the money to pay the fine, the court refused to give her a receipt, she told RFA on Thursday.
“They might be afraid that I will post the receipt on social media to prove that they pressured me to pay 10 million riels,” she said. She is still worried for her safety as she now has no proof that she paid her fine, she added.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said it is rare for a Cambodian court to force someone already released from prison to pay a fine, calling the provincial court’s decision “very strict”. The court should have given Sam Sokha more time to pay the fine, he said.
“She only had one day to raise 10 million riels. It was not enough time, even though she had properties for sale,” he said.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said Cambodian courts are using excessive fines as a “backdoor way” to keep human rights activists like Sam Sokha behind bars.
“His whole sentence was ridiculous to begin with and shows how Prime Minister Hun Sen treats the justice system as his plaything to settle vendettas against anyone who dares to ridicule him,” Robertson said.
“This additional six-month sentence only adds insult to injury in a case where human rights have been violated from the start. But Sam Sokha can be happy that many people still laugh every time they watch his video with his famous shoe.
Sam Sokha is among dozens of CNRP supporters who have been arrested for protesting the party’s crackdown by Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 35 years.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, allowing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to win all 125 seats in parliament in the July 2018 elections and leading to US sanctions and the suspension of business privileges with the country. ‘European Union.
Reported by the Khmer service of RFA. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.