By Sineat Yon
Political commentator Kim Sok has fled Cambodia out of safety concerns, less than three weeks after being released from a prison where he was detained for 18 months on charges of incitement and defamation.
Speaking by phone, Kim Sok told ucanews.com on Sept. 3 that he had left Cambodia to seek safety for his daughter. “I received six phone calls in which someone threatened to mistreat my daughter. Someone said: ‘Sok, you have a young daughter. If you don’t stop criticizing the government, you both will be gone.'”
Kim Sok said the caller had used his daughter to threaten him because he is a difficult person to intimidate. He could not identify the caller.
After being released from prison on Aug. 17, Kim Sok has shown no fear in criticizing the political situation in Cambodia.
In late July, Cambodia had a controversial election in which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party claimed all 125 seats. The election was widely criticized because the main opposition party was banned from taking part and because opposition leader Kem Sokha is in prison on charges of treason.
Many political prisoners have been released recently after receiving a royal pardon. But Kem Sokha remains behind bars and a request to release him on bail was denied last month.
Prime Minister Hun Sen recently said that Kim Sok could be arrested again. The analyst still needs to pay about US$200,000 in compensation to Hun Sen as part of his conviction in February 2017. “If you don’t pay on time, you will return to prison,” Hun Sen warned.
Kim Sok is due to appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sept. 14 on other charges of incitement and defamation. If he fails to appear, an arrest warrant will be issued, a letter from the court said.
The analyst, currently in a secret location, said he plans to return to Cambodia as soon as possible. “I have to find safe shelter for my daughter and make sure she is safe. After that, I will resume my work.”
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager of Cambodian human rights group Licadho, told ucanews.com that as a democratic country Cambodia should respect freedom of expression. “If freedom of expression is limited and causes security problems for people, then it’s difficult for the country to move on and develop. It makes people afraid to express their opinions.”