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Daughters of Jailed Cambodian Human Rights Activist Fight for Freedom of Expression

White House Candlelight Vigil

Photos courtesy of Warren Anderson, UCIC

Kem Monovithya, 24, and Kem Samathida, 18, the daughters of imprisoned Human Rights activist Kem Sokha are in the US and working with Cambodian Americans to garner support for their father's release and to call attention to the crackdown on freedom of expression and democracy in Cambodia.

On December 31, 2005,  Kem Sohka, Cambodian Center for Human Rights‘ director, and Yeng Virak, head of the Community Legal Education Center, were arrested for allegedly defaming the government in connection with a banner displayed on International Human Rights Day.  So far, five individuals, either journalists, trade unionists, or prominent human rights activists have been arrested based on complaints filed by the government or its leaders.  Most relate directly to opinions expressed about Prime Minister Hun Sen of the dominant Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and criticisms over sensitive border issues with neighboring Vietnam.

Critics, including the United States, the United Nations, World Bank and international human rights groups , have condemned the government's actions and said they show Cambodia, under Hun Sen's rule, is becoming more authoritarian than democratic.

While their father was being taken to Prey Sar prison, Kem's daughters were en route by jet to the United States where they attend school.  They did not know of the arrest until they arrived in Washington, DC where the younger daughter Samathida will begin classes on January 17th. 

A Candlight Vigil was held in front of the White House last night organized by an umbrella organization, United Cambodian International Council (UCIC), made up of many Cambodian diaspora groups.  Monovithya Kem was one of the featured speakers and updated the audience on her father's condition in prison. The United Cambodian International Council (UCIC) co-chairs, Suykry Path from Minnesota and the Venerable Monk Rithipol of Massachusetts, also made remarks.

“I am encouraged by these efforts made by Cambodians in America and around the world,” said Monovithya Kem.   "I feel certain that my father and his fight for democracy in Cambodia is not and will not be forgotten.”

Today, Loving-Kindness Ceremonies ("Bon Psay Meta" in Cambodian) were held at major Buddhist Temples across America.  I reached Kem Sokha's younger daughter, Samathida, by phone who told me that she was touched by support she and her sister are receiving from Cambodian Americans and others.

She went on to say that her father's arrest is very wrong. "Cambodian people have brains, they think and they want to be able to speak their minds.  But, if the government doesn't like what you say, you are put in jail.  We are voiceless in our own country."  She urged those who care about freedom of expression to put pressure on the Cambodian government to release her father and all those who have been jailed.   "Please do not abandon Cambodia."

The two daughters will meet with U.S. Representatives and Senators in  Washington, D.C. tommorrow to make a personal appeal and deliver letters of support from the Cambodian NGOS, Cambodian Americans, and others.

Perhaps they will start a blog to continue to tell their story and plead for their father's release and demand freedom of expression in Cambodia. The recent actions by the government, however, have had a chilling effect on the Cambodian blogosphere. Bloggers in country are not expressing their views on the topic.

13 comments

  • Timothy Chhim

    The pressure is on. Prime Minister Hun Sen will have to release all Human Rights advocates, journalists and other opposition members before it’s too late.

    Most importantly the lawsuits must not be used as a weapon to silent and jail government critics. When Kem Sokha and others are released, they will have to be allowed to do their works freely without any fear from such a repression.

    Kem Sokha’s daughters are thorns in the eye of premier Hun Sen and with the help of the free world they will succeed in something bigger– Justice, freedom and democracy–for Cambodians and Cambodia.

    There is not much room left for tyrants in the world.

  • PonlokKhmer

    PonlokKhmer
    A few sentence may have been meaningful for all Khmer people. I was very upset and worrysome about the recent arrest of human rights activists in Cambodia. The Cambodia government was being stepped backwards with its demise of the democracy system and stood alone in the planet. The Cambodian leaders should raise and commit its human rights, especially democracy-freedom of expression and speech, in order to re-develop its pity nation. The defaming law remained from the UNTAC should not have carried on because it has destroyed huge human rights in Cambodia. A few Cambodian leaders should go back to primary school if they were not well-educated or they should learn how to speak judgefully.
    I think the recent last severe arrest of our heros of human rigts activists was most likely shutting down all voice of democraticists and unjustice for all non-government organisations in Cambodia. Freedom of expression and speech are all people rights which protected by its nature and if someone aggressively threatens someone else’s life because of what he or she said is entirely wrong. Therefore, that coecive person must bring to court, sic!
    I beg all Khmer people, regardless of whatever party they belong or tend to, help our nation to raise freedom of expression and speech. I want freedom of expression and speech in Cambodia so as every where round the globe.

  • KOULEN MONORUM

    The US, the EU’s government and the UN office, may think that leave the Royal Cambodian Government to Hun Sen and king running is better than Pol Pot regime. You are all wrong Sir, Hun Sen and Royal family were all Khmre Rouge associates. They have cheated the West since 1991. They never respect the 23 October 1991 Paris Peace Accord.

    The Khmer land are loosing every day, the Vietnamese (YUONS) citizen walking into Cambodia freely every day too. When the Human Rights and Democracy advocates speak out like Mr. Kem Sokha and others the Royal Cambodian Government which actually another Khmer Rouge government arrested them and put them in Prey Sar prison.

    I would like to urge the US, the EU’s government and the UN office to support directly in releasing all innocent khmers who are now in any prison around Cambodian prisons.

    I would like also ask these above governments to help all honest, non-corrupt Khmer people power to overthrow legally this present Royal (khmer rouge) Government of Cambodia from office.

    Without the help from the West, Khmer people and Cambodia land will be disapear quickly out of the world map soon.

    Please help free the whole Nation of Cambodia.

    Sincerely,

    KOULEN MONORUM

  • KOULEN MONORUM

    The US, the EU’s government and the UN office, may think that leave the Royal Cambodian Government to Hun Sen and king running is better than Pol Pot regime. You are all wrong Sir, Hun Sen and Royal family were all Khmre Rouge associates, compare the crimes that they have committed against Khmer people in the past and now, they are exactly the same people and committed the same crimes. They have cheated the West since 1991. They never respect the 23 October 1991 Paris Peace Accord.

    The Khmer land are loosing every day, the Vietnamese (YUONS) citizen walking illegally into Cambodia freely every day too. When the Human Rights and Democracy advocates speak out like Mr. Kem Sokha and others the Royal Cambodian Government which actually another Khmer Rouge government arrested them and put them in Prey Sar prison.

    I would like to urge the US, the EU’s government and the UN office to support directly in releasing Mr. Kem Sokha, Mr. Mam Sonando, Mr. Rong Chhun, Mr. Cheam Chhany, Mr. Pa Nguon Tea and all innocent khmers who are now in any prison around Cambodia.

    I would like also ask these above governments to help all honest, non-corrupt Khmer people power to overthrow legally this present Royal (khmer rouge) Government of Cambodia from office.

    Without the help from the West and the US government Khmer people and Cambodia land will be disapear quickly out of the world map.

    Please help free the whole Nation of Cambodia from these two giant communists countries. Wihout your help we will not be succeeded.

    Sincerely,

    KOULEN MONORUM

  • Kim Chivansuy

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is a tyrant. With his Khmer Rouge background, he intimidate/harass/kill anybody who blocks his way without any fear, even foreigners. For examples, in the past, he tried to kick out the environmental watch groups because they spoke the true about the continuing illegally logging, and jail the current dissident that he accuses them of “defamation”.

    In January 2003, he provoked the riot that burned Thai business buildings and embassy. Thai demanded about 50 million dollars for the damages, and Hun Sen was not sent to Prey Sar jail. Where is the rule of law? It is purely that Hun Sen is a tyrant.

    The foreigner donors continue to play a silent roll in these cruel actions. This silence only benefits the tyrant, not the democracy lovers; therefore, your donors are useless for innocent Cambodia.

    Donors who want to help poor Cambodians must put conditions on the money they provide to Hun Sen government, to ensure there are no human rights violations, rule of law must be respected, and freedom must be granted to those who want to express their rights and concerns. This is a peaceful practice. It is not like Hun Sen government used guns to shoot innocent people like in 1998 election protest, for example.

    Chivansuy

  • There’s no more proleung Khmer in Cambodia if the world lets Hun Sen continue his tyranny. He’s a former Khmer Rouge. The UN is going to help with the Khmer Rouge tribunal. So if justice there’s, Hun Sen and his people who were associated with the Khmer Rouge must stand trial.

    The arrests of human rights advocates such as Kem Sokha is just the beginning. Hun Sen doesn’t want the opposition to exist when he sentenced Sam Rainsy to 18 months in jail. He’s preparing to suppress the opposition now so that in 1998, he’ll absolutely rule.

    We need a Vox Populi, a new revolution by the people and for the people a la Philippines and Indonesia.

    Where is Proleung Khmer?

  • KOULEN MONORUM

    THE US, THE UN AND THE EU’s GOVERNMENTS MUST FOCUS BACK TOWARD CAMBODIA PROLEM BY NOT LETTING CHINA AND VIETNAM (YUON) COMMUNISTS TO SWALLOW CAMBODIAN TERRITORY AND DESTROY TRUE KHMER LIVES.

    All Khmer Compatriots, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Madam STACIE LOUCKS,
    Resident Program Officer – Cambodia
    International Republican Institute

    My apology if my writing here is not decent or become racist by any interpretation.

    Mr. Kem Sokha is the top model advocate for Cambodia’s Human Rights and Democracy. While he is still in Prey Sar prison every Khmer heart is with him and his family and all other innocent Khmers who are in Prey Sar prison. The voices of Mr. Kem Sokha’s two daughters in the RFA interview and VOA as a guest speakers made us so disappointed with the dictatorial Hun Sen’s government in which the US government have tolerated and padded along beside with for so long, for almost 15 years since the 23 Octobear 1991 Paris Peace Accord.

    The US government were opposed to the Khmer Rouge regime, that is why the US expect that the Khmer Rouge trial will come out as an International standard justice system.

    Madam STACIE LOUCKS, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me remind you that HUN SEN himself and most of the government ministers, army commanders and police officers were the butchers from the Khmer Rouge regime or were Khmer Rouge accomplices to the traitor monarchists. In the recent past the Chinese communist government bank rolled approximately 1 billion US dollars to the Khmer Rouge leader Mr. Ieng Sary to make the war against the West and later on against Vietnamese (YUON) invaders. Mr. Ieng Sary now lives in luxury in Pailin Province.

    While the US government is thinking that Cambodia’s geopolitics is of no interest for the US administration, CHINA and VIETNAM (YUON) have never abandoned their plans of swallowing Cambodia into their own sattelite.

    After 1993 UNTAC supervised election VIETNAM (YUON) have sent 5 million people who consist of at least half a million armforces including fully equipped war marchines such as tanks, attilleries, warplanes etc… back to settle inside Cambodian territory up until today.

    We Khmer really appreciate the US $800,000 per year for Mr. Kem Sokha from the IRI to spread out Human Rights and Democracy in Cambodia, but how can Mr. Kem Sokha survive with the CHINA and VIETNAM (YUON) communists, Traitor Monarchs, Royal crooks, Khmer Rouge Ieng Sary and Khmer Rouge Hun Sen government pressure in Cambodia? How can he?

    We would like to see the I R I and international communities urge the US government, to spend at least 1 billion US dollars to match with what China bank rolled Khmer Rouge leader Mr. Ieng Sary and also an American warship the 7th fleet to the Golf of Siam to neutralise the disguise Vietnamese army occupiers in Cambodia, or at least to deter their oppresses’ actions in arresting Human Rights and Democracy Advocates in the whole of Cambodia.

    This money needs to be used to recruit more daring fresh blood and expand all Human Rights and Democracy advocates in Cambodia, or otherwise Cambodia will fall completely into communist’s China/Vietnam hands. Then the US will have lost one of the most loyal people to the US ally sphere.

    When CHINA and VIETNAM (YUON) completely overtake Cambodia then they will continue to walk their way into Thailand and overtake it as well. It is not in the US’s interests to let this happen.

    Mr. Kem Sokha, Mr. Mam Sonando, Mr. Rong Chhun, Mr. Yeng Virak, Mr. Cheam Chany and all other good innocent Khmer advocates can be released ONLY THE US GOVERNMENT PLAY THE LEADING ROLE IN CAMBODIA FROM TODAY ONWARDS.

    Sincerely yours,

    KOULEN MONORUM

  • Dear, All

    My Name’s Sopheak Chheng Living in Norway and Now i’m studying in the Internatinal College. And i’m also doing some Campaign about to help Mr. Kem Sokha that I’m alway Respect and Follow his advise.

    By the way i do want to get in touch with his Daugther to Talk about my help, what can i help ? But i’m already collected the sing from 200 students from 91 different countries.

    I hope she’s will contact me this is my email Khmermail@khmermail.com or my mobile 4795460851 you can all 24/7 i’m waiting for that

    Sinecerely

    Sopheak Chheng

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