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A Cambodian court has sentenced an American lawyer and scores of people to prison for treason

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - In a mass trial that was denounced by the United States and rights organisations as being politically m...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - In a mass trial that was denounced by the United States and rights organisations as being politically motivated, a Cambodian court sentenced roughly 60 opposition members, including renowned attorney Theary Seng, to prison on Tuesday for planning to commit treason.

More than 100 members of the defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were charged with treason and incitement, including Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer and human rights campaigner.

According to her counsel, a court in Phnom Penh sentenced Theary Seng to six years in prison and ordered her detention.

"This is not acceptable, and I will meet with her in prison to discuss an appeal," her lawyer, Chuong Choungy, said outside the courtroom, noting that she was one of roughly 60 co-defendants sentenced to five to eight years in prison.

Theary Seng had come to court dressed as the Statue of Liberty, with a symbolic chain around her neck, and had stated that she anticipated to be found guilty.

She was hauled into a police pickup truck following the decision, resulting in scuffles between officers and her supporters.

The verdicts are sure to reignite worldwide alarm about Hun Sen, Cambodia's senior prime minister, and what his detractors claim has been the systematic extermination of opposition to his rule over many years. Hun Sen denies pursuing revenge on his rivals.

The United States is "extremely concerned" by today's unjust rulings, according to Chad Roedemeier, a spokeswoman for the US embassy.

"The US has continually urged on Cambodian authorities to discontinue politically motivated trials, including those involving U.S. citizen Seng Theary and other human rights advocates, political opposition members, journalists, and labour and environmental activists," Roedemeier told Reuters.


In absentia, the court sentenced senior opposition leader Sam Rainsy, a former finance minister and leader of the CNRP, to eight years in prison. Rainsy resides in exile in France.

Theary Seng spoke about the decision she expected before her detention, adding that it would apply to all Cambodians who "love justice, love freedom, who are genuine democrats."

"Finding me guilty follows the logic of this autocratic administration," she told reporters.

Cambodia has been ruled by Hun Sen for 37 years. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge's "killing fields" government in the 1980s, he rose to popularity and solidified his hold on power in the 1990s.

Before the 2018 general election, the CNRP was banned and its leader, Kem Sokha, was jailed, allowing Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party to win every parliamentary seat and provoking worldwide anger.

The charges against Kem Sokha arise from allegations that he collaborated with the US to destabilise Hun Sen. The allegations are denied by Kem Sokha and the United States.

Human Rights Watch encouraged international governments, the UN, and aid donors to pressure Cambodia to overturn the convictions and put a halt to a wide assault on the country's remaining civic and democratic space.

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