Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Seng Theary’s nationality ‘irrelevant’ under law: official

Seng Theary’s nationality ‘irrelevant’ under law: official

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian-American political activist Seng Chan Theary at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on April 04, 2022. FACEBOOK

Seng Theary’s nationality ‘irrelevant’ under law: official

A senior Ministry of Justice official has refuted a recent claim by Choung Choungy – the defence lawyer of outspoken Cambodian-American political activist Seng Theary – that the US and local civil society organisations, aided by political negotiations, could help secure her freedom.

Choungy made the claim following a September 1 decision by the Court of Appeal to deny bail to her, with the case now referred to the Supreme Court.

“My client is an American citizen. Thus, the US should be able to assist her. Since she was detained, I have been in constant contact with a team from the embassy. I would also like to see more advocacy by local civil society representatives,” he said on September 11.

Hun Vannak, a member of the youth group Khmer Thavrak which has been active in demanding Theary’s release, claimed that authorities in Preah Vihear province had erected a barrier to stop them and the “Friday Women” protesters from flying balloons outside the provincial prison, where she is held after being found guilty of “plotting” and “incitement to foment serious chaos in society”.

“Even though our activities are on a very small scale, I believe that they will attract the attention of the public. It is better that we conduct even a small campaign than do nothing at all,” he said.

On 14 June, the US Department of State called for Theary’s release, considering her charges and detention a violation of Cambodia’s liberal, multi-party democracy. It said all Cambodians should be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression, peaceful gathering and the right to choose their leaders.

Chin Malin, spokesman for the justice ministry, emphasised that the issue of nationality cannot be used in exchange for the release of a convicted prisoner.

“Theary’s problem is a legal one. Whether she is an activist or a foreign national is irrelevant. As long as a crime is committed in Cambodia, it will be treated the same way under the Cambodian law. Therefore, if any interested party – be it an NGO or the US government – wants to involve itself, it must do so through the Cambodian judicial system,” he said.

Choungy said his client remained healthy and committed to advocating for freedom and democracy in Cambodia.

Theary was arrested in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and immediately taken to Prey Sar Prison on June 14 after being sentenced to six years in prison for conspiracy to plotting, in relations to the planned return of Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

She was transferred to Preah Vihear prison on June 15 due to “security concerns”.


  • Ream base allegations must end, urges official

    A senior government official urges an end to the allegations and suspicions surrounding the development of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, now that Prime Minister Hun Manet has addressed the issue on the floor of the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78). Jean-Francois Tain, a geopolitical

  • Ministry taking steps over Thai ‘replica’ of Angkor Wat

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has dispatched experts to inspect the ongoing construction of a temple in Wat Phu Man Fah, located in Thailand’s Buriram province. This temple appears to be a replica of Cambodia’s renowned Angkor Wat. The ministry said

  • CP denied registration documents by ministry

    The Ministry of Interior will not reissue registration documents to the Candlelight Party (CP). Following a September 21 meeting between ministry secretary of state Bun Honn and CP representatives, the ministry cited the fact that there is no relevant law which would authorise it to do

  • PM to open new Siem Reap int’l airport December 1

    Prime Minister Hun Manet and Chinese leaders would jointly participate in the official opening of the new Chinese-invested Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport on December 1. The airport symbolises a new page in the history of Cambodian aviation, which will be able to welcome long-distance flights to

  • Minimum wage set at $204, after Sep 28 vote

    The minimum wage for factory workers in the garment, footwear and travel goods industries for 2024 has been decided at $204 per month, with the government contributing $2. Following several negotiation sessions, the tripartite talks reached an agreement during a September 28 vote, with 46 of 51 votes supporting the $202 figure.

  • Cambodian diaspora laud Manet’s UN Assembly visit

    Members of the Cambodian diaspora are rallying in support of Prime Minister Hun Manet’s forthcoming visit to the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) in the US’ New York City this week. Their move is an apparent response to a recent call by self-exiled former