Former RFA reporter in Cambodia loses appeal to ­­­­­­­­­­­have passport returned

An appellate court in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh upheld a lower court’s decision not to return the passport of Yeang Sothearin, citing an ongoing investigation into the former RFA editor and reporter, he told RFA.

 Yeang Sothearin, who also worked as a news anchor for RFA’s Khmer Service, was taken into custody in November 2017 along with Uon Chhin, who was an RFA photographer and videographer.

They were charged with “illegally collecting information for a foreign source” after RFA closed its bureau in the capital in September that year amid a government crackdown on independent media. They have since been charged with additional crimes.

If convicted of the first charge, they could face a jail term of between seven and 15 years. They remain out on bail but in legal limbo after a series of appeals have been rejected by courts.

Yeang Sothearin said the court’s decision would prevent him from visiting his ailing father, an ethnic Cambodian living in southern Vietnam, or participating in NGO activities outside of Cambodia.

“I told the court that it has been five years, it is a long time and I don’t know when it will end,” Yeang Sothearin told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“There is no indication from the judge of when the investigation will end and they won’t tell me when my passport will be returned, so how can I live? I will use my rights to demand [my passport],” he said.

He said that he will appeal again by taking the case to Cambodia’s Supreme Court.

The decision not to return the passport violates Yeang Sothearin’s rights because the case has been delayed for many years and has not yet reached conclusion, Ny Sokha, president of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc) told RFA.

He said the delay affects both Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin. 

“We don’t see any indication that they want to avoid the court or flee overseas. They have houses here and they want the freedom to travel to make a living. I don’t see any reason to restrict their freedom,” he said.

Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong

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