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Human rights defender Rong Chhun sentenced to two years in prison

Status: 
Sentenced
About the situation

On 18 August 2021, human rights defender and labour rights activist Rong Chhun was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by a municipal court in Cambodia on the charges of “incitement to commit a felony”. Rong Chhun had been under pretrial detention at Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1 since 31 July 2020, after being arrested for a statement he issued on the demarcation of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam which has stripped several farmers of their land. Human rights defenders Sar Kanika and Ton Nimol were also sentenced to twenty months each in prison on the charges of “incitement to cause social disorder” for publicly calling for Rong Chhun’s release from prison. Along with a fine of 2 million riel each (418 Euro), the three human rights defenders have also been ordered to pay 400 million riel (83,613 Euro) to the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee as compensation.

On 31 July 2020, human rights defender Rong Chhun was arrested at his home in Phnom Penh, which thought to be in relation to a statement he had made on the demarcation of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam that has stripped several farmers of their land. The following day, on 1 August 2020, the Phnom Penh municipal court charged the defender with “incitement to commit a felony”, and he is currently being detained at the Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1.

About Rong Chhun

rong_chhunRong Chhun is the President of the independent Cambodian Confederation of Unions and a member of the Cambodia Watchdog Council. He was the former president of the Cambodian Independent Teacher's Association (CITA), an organisation that promotes solidarity between the private and public sector teachers, irrespective of colour, race, sex, religion or political belief. He has been a vocal human rights defender and has long raised concerns about the plight of farmer’s and worker’s rights.

23 August 2021
Human rights defender Rong Chhun sentenced to two years in prison

On 18 August 2021, human rights defender and labour rights activist Rong Chhun was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by a municipal court in Cambodia on the charges of “incitement to commit a felony”. Rong Chhun had been under pretrial detention at Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1 since 31 July 2020, after being arrested for a statement he issued on the demarcation of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam which has stripped several farmers of their land. Human rights defenders Sar Kanika and Ton Nimol were also sentenced to twenty months each in prison on the charges of “incitement to cause social disorder” for publicly calling for Rong Chhun’s release from prison. Along with a fine of 2 million riel each (418 Euro), the three human rights defenders have also been ordered to pay 400 million riel (83,613 Euro) to the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee as compensation.

Rong Chhun is the President of the independent Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and a member of the Cambodia Watchdog Council. He was the former president of the Cambodian Independent Teacher's Association (CITA), an organisation that promotes solidarity between the private and public sector teachers, irrespective of colour, race, sex, religion or political belief. He has been a vocal human rights defender and has long raised concerns about the plight of farmer’s and worker’s rights.

On 20 July 2020 Rong Chhun issued a statement citing the details of irregularities in the placement of border posts and the losses of hundreds of hectares of land belonging to Cambodian farmers. The statement was issued following the human rights defender’s visit to Tbong Khmom Province, bordering Cambodia, and his interactions with resident farmers. Rong Chhun was arrested soon after the statement was issued, after the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee rejected his findings and accused him of spreading fake news. The human rights defender has been a target of judicial harassment since 2015 for his activism and work in the defence of human rights.

Front Line Defenders condemns the sentencing of Rong Chhun, Sar Kanika and Ton Nimol and calls for their immediate and unconditional release, as it believes that they are being targeted solely as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights work and fighting against injustice. Furthermore, it is deeply concerned by the continuous reprisals against human rights defenders and suppression of dissent in Cambodia.

6 August 2020
Human rights defender Rong Chhun arrested and charged

On 31 July 2020, human rights defender Rong Chhun was arrested at his home in Phnom Penh, which thought to be in relation to a statement he had made on the demarcation of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam that has stripped several farmers of their land. The following day, on 1 August 2020, the Phnom Penh municipal court charged the defender with “incitement to commit a felony”, and he is currently being detained at the Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1.

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Rong Chhun is the President of the independent Cambodian Confederation of Unions and a member of the Cambodia Watchdog Council. He was the former president of the Cambodian Independent Teacher's Association (CITA), an organisation that promotes solidarity between the private and public sector teachers, irrespective of colour, race, sex, religion or political belief. He has been a vocal human rights defender and has long raised concerns about the plight of farmer’s and worker’s rights.

On 31 July 2020, Rong Chhun was arrested without being shown an arrest warrant, at his home in Phnom Penh. The statement, although not expressly linked to the arrest but thought to have been the cause, was declared as ‘fake news’ by the authorities. On 1 August 2020, the Phnom Penh municipal court charged the defender with “incitement to commit a felony” under articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s penal code, and ordered he be held in pretrial detention at Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 1.

On 20 July 2020, Rong Chhun visited Cambodia’s Tbong Khmom province, bordering Vietnam, and spoke with farmers who had been prevented from working on their land because of new border demarcations. After this visit, the defender issued a statement for Cambodia Council Watch, in which he cited irregularities with the placement of border posts and the resulting loss of hundreds of hectares of land belonging to Cambodian farmers. Soon after the statement was released, on 31 July 2020, the government’s Border Affairs Committee issued a statement rejecting Rong Chhun’s findings, accusing him of spreading fake news. The arrest of the defender soon after he published the statement is reason to believe that the two incidents are linked.

This is not the first time Rong Chhun has been arrested. The defender has been a target of judicial harassment since 2015 for his activism and work in defence of human rights. The Cambodian authorities have increasingly been targeting and silencing those who criticise them, with labour rights defenders and unions being targeted in particular.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the progressively hostile environment for human rights defenders in Cambodia. Front Line Defenders condemns the arrest of Rong Chhun and the charges against him, as it believes he is being targeted for his legitimate and peaceful work for the protection of human rights.