Former Opposition Party Leader Calls for Election Boycotts in Cambodia

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – In November of 2017, the Supreme Court of Cambodia dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the main opposition party to Prime Minister’s Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).  Now, the former leader of the CNRP is asking people to boycott the upcoming elections in protest of the party’s ban.  The current leader of the CNRP, Kem Sokha, was arrested in late 2017 on charges of treason.

Former CNRP leader, Sam Rainsy (front left) with Kem Sokha, the current leader who is in jail facing charges of treason. Photo courtesy of Tang Chhin Sothy.

Following the ban on the CNRP several countries have cut aid, imposed travel bans, and condemn the actions.  Many nations like Japan are demanding free and fair elections in Cambodia.  The CPP is predicted to win the next election almost completely unopposed.

Sam Rainsy, the former CNRP leader, recently tweeted, “I call on all my Cambodian fellow compatriots who believe in democracy to boycott the  July 29, 2018 elections if the CNRP is not allowed to participate.”  Rainsy has been extremely critical of the current Prime Minister, Hun Sen, for several years now; it is not clear whether his tweet reflects his personal beliefs or those of CNRP.

A spokesperson of the CPP said of Rainsy’s tweet, “The CNRP is already dead by the Supreme Court’s decision.  Even if Sam Rainsy appeals until he dies, people no longer believe him.”

Many of the former members of the CNRP and its factions have found exile in the United States.  It is here that they continue to mobilize and speak on Cambodian politics.  One professor of diplomacy says, “Is the spirit of the CNRP still alive? Of course it’s still alive.”  It is just continuing its work elsewhere until its reconstituted.

For more information please visit:

Reuters – Cambodia’s former opposition leader calls for election boycott – 8 April 2018

South China Morning Post – Cambodia’s former opposition leader Sam Rainsy calls for election boycott if his dissolved party remains excluded – 8 April 2018

Voice of America – Cambodia’s Former Opposition Leader Calls for Election Boycott – 8 April 2018

Asia Times – Can Cambodia’s fractured opposition survive? – 5 April 2018 

Detained Journalists’ Lawyers Argue for Case Dismissal

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YANGON, Myanmar – Court hearings have been taking place since January for two Reuters journalists that were arrested on December  12, 2017.  Myanmar officials arrested Wa Lone and Kyaw She Oo for obtaining state secrets from two police officers working in the Rakhine state.  The journalists had been working on a story in relation to the mass killings of Rohingya in the Rakhine state.

Wa Lone pictured after April 4, 2018’s case hearing. Photo Courtesy of Reuter/ Ann Wang.

So far, 17 witnesses gave testimony in court in 13 hearings that have taken place.  Lone’s and Oo’s lawyers say that the witnesses called forth by the prosecution are weak.  There are inconsistencies in the testimonies. Additionally, several procedural mistakes were revealed during the court sessions. Testimonies included a witness who burned notes from the time of the arrest, another who wrote the information down on his hand, and one who signed the search form before the section detailing the items seized had been filled in. The defense attorney has called for the dismissal of the case based on this.  The judge will decide at the next hearing on 11 April.

The prosecution team responded to the request to dismiss the case by stating that the information that the two journalist had was secret and that the journalist intended to hurt the country with that information. The defense team presented that that the prosecution could not establish that the information that the journalist obtained was secret as it had been published by both state and private media outlets.

Wa Lone told journalist after the court hearing, “We only did our work as reporters. I want the people to understand that and want to tell them that I never betrayed the country.”  She Oo said, “We followed the news and uncovered the Inn Din story. The reason why we did it is to give the vitally important information to the country.”

For more information please visit:

Reuters – lawyers for Reuters reporters argue for Myanmar court to dismiss case –  4 April 2018

Democratic Voice of Burma – Court hears arguments on motion to dismiss charges against Reuters duo – 4 April 2018

Washington Post -Lawyers ask Myanmar to dismiss case vs. Reuters journalists – 4 April 2018

Vietnam Jails Six Human Rights Activists

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – In Vietnam, six human rights activists were sentenced to between 7 and 15 years in jail. The activists were charged for “attempting to overthrow the state” on Thursday, April 5th, 2018. The sentenced imposed on the activists is the harshest sentence in years in Vietnam. All of them will face up to five years under house arrest when they are released from prison.

Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Photo courtesy of Lam Khanh via REUTERS.

The six activists were connected to the Brotherhood for Democracy group. They were accused of pushing multi-party democracy and receiving money from overseas. Blogger Pham Van Troi, priest Nguyen Trung Ton, journalist Truong Minh Duc, entrepreneur Nguyen Bac Truyen, and human rights worker Le Thu Ha were all sentenced on Thursday.

The Hanoi People’s Court gave Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer, the longest sentence for “trying to overthrow the people’s administration.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Ms Vu Minh Khanh, Dai’s wife, expressed her disappointment with the trial. She claims that “he is innocent and he pleaded innocent at the trial.”

Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the Communist Party of Vietnam has ruled the country. Although the country has been reforming its economy and its social policies, the government retains a tight grip on media censorship.

Amnesty International believes that there are around 97 prisoners being held in jail for their human rights work in the country.

On the recent actions taken by the Vietnamese government, the United States State Department stated that “the United States is deeply concerned by the Vietnamese government’s efforts to restrict these rights, through a disturbing trend of increased arrests, convictions, and harsh sentences of peaceful activists.” Moreover, the spokesperson went further by stating that “individuals have the right to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, both online and offline.”

CNN – Six activists jailed in Vietnam amid crackdown on dissent – 5 April, 2018

The Guardian – Vietnam jails six activists for up to 15 years for trying to ‘overthrow state’ – 5 April, 2018

The Straits Times – Vietnam jails human rights lawyer, five other activists – 6 April, 2018

North and South Korean Leaders Agree to Meet on April 27th

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, South Korea – On April 27th, 2018, North and South Korea have agreed to their first summit in more than a decade. The two leaders will meet at the border village of Panmunjom. Since the Korean War, Kim Jong-un will be the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South.

Head of the presidential National Security Office meets with Kim Jong-un on March 5, 2018 in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy of South Korean Presidential Blue House.

Since the North’s involvement in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last month, both countries have been negotiating for the two leaders to meet. On March 29th, 2018, senior negotiators from both countries met to decide on a date and other aspects of the meeting.

The meeting in April will be the third summit between leaders of North and South. Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, met with President Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007 in Pyongyang.

The South Korean Unification Minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, mentioned a potential discussion of denuclearization of North Korea at the meeting. The minister stated that “the South and North agreed on efforts to make the summit successful, sharing its historic significance in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, settling peace there and improving inter-Korean relations.”

The recent agreement was welcomed by the United Nations secretary general, Antonio Guterres. He stated that the meeting is “an opportunity for a peaceful solution to something that, a few months ago, was haunting us as the biggest danger we were facing.”

Although the date has not been set, the North Korean leader offered to meet with President Trump, who accepted the offer. The potential meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un will most likely occur after the North and South meet later this month. If the meeting is set, President Trump will be the first sitting United States president to meet with a North Korean leader.

According to a recent survey conducted by RealMeter, 73.1 percent of respondents welcomed the meeting. However, around 64 percent expressed that they did not trust the North’s intentions.

Al Jazeera – South Korea to host talks before inter-Korean summit – 28 March, 2018

CNBC – North, South Korea to hold first summit in years on April 27 – 29 March, 2018

The New York Times – North and South Korea Set a Date for Summit Meeting at Border – 29 March, 2018

Thai Court Finds Labor Activist Guilty of Defamation

By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – A court decision in a Bangkok on March 26th found a human rights activist guilty of defamation.

Andy Hall, a labor rights activist, was doing research on working conditions in Natural Fruit Co., Ltd., a pineapple tinning company in Thailand. His 2013 report described cases of extortion of migrant worker labor, labor trafficking, child labor, and violence. His research was in collaboration with the Finish NGO, Finnwatch. Following the publication of his research, Hall sat down with Al Jazeera for an interview. As a result, National Fruit filed a complaint under article 420 of the Civil and Commercial Code for defamation.

Andy hall talking to press outside Thai courthouse in 2016. Photo courtesy of Sakchai Lalit.

This is just one of four cases Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. has brought forward against Hall. In 2013, the court dismissed the case as a result of lack of jurisdiction as Al Jazeera had interviewed Hall while he was in Myanmar, not Thailand. Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. appealed, and the case was accepted in August 2017. On March 26th, the court found Hall guilty and subjected him to pay $312,500 USD (10 million Thai baht) as well as lawyer and court fees to Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. Hall plans to appeal this court decision.

In 2016, Hall was also found guilty of criminal defamation and computer crimes against Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. He was sentenced to 4 years in jail and a $6,250 USD (200,00 baht) fee. He appealed this case. His appeals trial is set for next month on April 24, 2018.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) believes that these cases against Hall will discourage further research into labor rights in Thailand.  A HRW researcher said of the situation, “The Thai government should not look the other way while companies use the courts to undermine corporate accountability for labor rights abuses. If the Thai government is really against labor exploitation, it should promote changes in the law that would prevent abusive libel cases.”

The Thai government said last year that they remain committed to the UN values of human rights and that they have implemented statutes to protect laborers.

 For more information, please see:  

Human Rights Watch – Thailand: Verdict Threatens Labor Abuse Reporting – 28 March 2018

Al Jazeera – HRW condemns libel verdict against rights worker Andy Hall – 28 March 2018

Andy Hall’s Blog – Washington Post/AP 26th March 2018: Thai court finds British labor activist defamed fruit firm – 27 March 2018