Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha on Friday mourned the death this week of a party member in his first public statement after being moved from prison into house arrest in September.
Writing on his official Facebook page, Kem Sokha—leader of the now-banned Cambodia National Rescue Party—sent condolences to the family of CNRP lawmaker Cheam Channy, who died Oct. 25 of cancer at the age of 57 and is survived by his wife and three daughters.
“I admire and will never forget Cheam Channy, who sacrificed his time and efforts for the sake of democracy, freedom, and benefit for the Cambodian people,” Kem Sokha wrote.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service from his exile in Paris on Thursday, former CNRP president Sam Rainsy praised Cheam Channy, who had earlier served a year in prison on charges widely seen as politically motivated, as a patriot who loved his country.
Cheam Channy was a “brave and committed” activist who fought tirelessly for democracy and human rights, Sam Rainsy said.
“We must follow in his footsteps,” Sam Rainsy said in remarks addressed to fellow CNRP members, many of whom fled Cambodia ahead of national elections in the face of pressure to change sides by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“He was firm and loyal to his party,” Sam Rainsy said.
Still faces charges
Kem Sokha was released from prison into house arrest on Sept. 10, 2018, a year after he was arrested on treason charges also seen as politically motivated, but critics said he should never have been arrested and called for his banned party to be reinstated.
The 65-year-old opposition chief had been held for a year in pretrial detention in Trapeang Phlong prison in remote Tboung Khmum province near the border with Vietnam.
Kem Sokha, who had been denied bail six times despite fears that he was suffering from medical complications, was released due to health concerns, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court said.
The release of the former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party from pre-trial detention carried the conditions that he must stay within a block radius of his home, cannot meet with CNRP officials or foreigners, and cannot or host any rallies or political activities, the lawyer said.
He still faces up to 30 years if convicted of treason.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.