Cambodian MEA Laureate 2012 Luon Sovath charged with incitement

November 5, 2014

 
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(Luon Sovath after receiving the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva on 2 October 2012; left myself.  AFP)
 On 4 November Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that two outspoken critics of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen are called to court this month on vague charges of “incitement to commit a crime,” but the defendants say they have done nothing illegal. It concerns the human rights defender and monk Luon Sovath (MEA Laureate 2012) and dissident Sourn Serey Ratha (based in the USA). They received summons dated 22 October (!) signed by Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpeseth accusing then of “incitement to commit crimes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and abroad” in 2011, under Penal Code article 495, but the summonses, which ordered the two men to appear in court together in the capital on 25 November, do not specify what crimes they had incited or how their cases were linked.

[Under the Penal Code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates “serious turmoil in society” through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication. Luon Sovath faces up to five years in prison if convicted, while Sourn Serey Ratha faces a total maximum punishment of 15 years.]

Luon Sovath told RFA Monday that he would attend the hearing and said local nongovernmental organizations had provided him with two lawyers for his defense, but he questioned why he was facing criminal charges. “What is meant by an incitement to commit crimes?” he asked. “In Buddhism, incitement means to provoke people to kill, rob or lie, but what I have done? Has anyone seen me incite people?” Luon Sovath said that he had attended a United Nations conference in New York in 2011 where he met Sourn Serey Ratha “but I was not involved with what he does in the U.S.,” referring to his group’s aim of regime change in Cambodia. “I came with a human rights NGO to give a presentation on the land dispute issue in Cambodia,” he said.Sourn Serey Ratha also denied the charges against him and told RFA that his lawyer would represent him at court in his absence. “Our struggle depends on international laws to fight against the dictatorship [in Cambodia],” he said. “We are not involved with any armed forces or illegal acts.

An earlier hearing for both Luon Sovath and Sourn Serey Ratha had been scheduled for 18 September, but was delayed because the monk was traveling abroad. A report by the Cambodia Daily at the time cited Sourn Serey Ratha as saying that he had sponsored a trip by Luon Sovath to the U.S. in 2011 and helped raise nearly U.S. $30,000 for the monk’s human rights work in Cambodia, but that they did not communicate after that. The report had quoted deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpeseth as saying that the two would be tried together because they are involved in the same case, without elaborating.

Luon Sovath, who is known as the “multimedia monk,” is known for his presence at protests against land grabs and election fraud where he regularly documents the events through video and photography. For more on him see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/luon-savath/

Reported by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Cambodian Monk and Dissident Ordered to Court on Incitement Charges.

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