United Nations group urges Cambodia to release Cambodian-American human rights activist

A United Nations expert group is calling for the immediate release of a Cambodian-American human rights activist, saying an investigation it conducted has concluded she was being “arbitrarily detained in violation of international law.”

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in a judgment late Wednesday that while attorney Theary Seng had been convicted of conspiracy to commit treason and other charges last year, she was in reality being punished for “making two posts on Facebook critical of Hun Sen,” Cambodia’s autocratic prime minister.

The judgment comes a little more than a week before Cambodia’s general election, in which Hun Sen, who has been in power for 38 years, and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party are virtually guaranteed a landslide victory, since the Candlelight Party, the only other contender capable of mounting a credible challenge, was barred on a technicality from contesting the polls by the National Election Committee.

The situation is similar to that of the 2018 general election, when the popular Cambodian National Rescue Party was dissolved months before the polls by a controversial court ruling that alleged it had plotted the illegal overthrow of the government.

Cambodian courts are widely believed to be under Hun Sen’s influence, and pro-democracy groups have regularly criticized his government for stifling any opposition.