Cambodian opposition leader, two others released from detention (updated)

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 07 Nov 2019

PETALING JAYA: The three Cambodians detained by the authorities here, including an opposition leader, have been released.

Mu Sochua, who is vice-president of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was detained by Malaysian authorities along with two other Cambodian activists.

They were held in detention at a temporary holding centre at the KL International Airport (KLIA), said Jerald Joseph, a commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

"They have been freed and are on their way to a hotel. It is the right thing to do," he told The Star on Thursday (Nov 7).

Earlier, Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud had confirmed that Sochua is now permitted to enter Malaysia.

He, however, declined to share more details such as why she was detained by the authorities.

“She has been permitted to enter,” said Khairul Dzaimee in a text message on Thursday.

The two other Cambodian nationals were detained on Monday (Nov 4) evening while they were waiting to board a flight to Thailand, said Joseph.

Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah had said Malaysia had received a request from Cambodia to deport them but had yet to make a decision on this.

UNHCR did not want to comment on details of individuals for reasons of confidentiality and protection.

"Seeking asylum is a basic human right. Any forced return of refugees and asylum-seekers to a country where their lives or freedom may be at risk is prohibited under international customary law," said a UNHCR spokesman in Malaysia.

Malaysia's representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) had earlier urged the government to release Mu Sochua, saying that she has not committed any offence here.

"Mu Sochua should be released immediately. She has not committed any offence in Malaysia nor anything that should concern the authorities.

"She has a legitimate interest in the political affairs of her country," Eric Paulsen tweeted.

The detentions came ahead of a planned return of exiled CNRP leaders, including Mu Sochua and Sam Rainsy, the party's founder, to Cambodia on the country's Independence Day on Saturday (Nov 9).

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chanocha had said that Rainsy would not be allowed to enter Thailand on his way to Cambodia.

According to Amnesty International, at least 41 former CNRP members have been jailed and 88 have been subject to politically-motivated charges including “plotting against the state” and “attack” since August for allegedly supporting the return to Cambodia of CNRP leaders living abroad.

Arrests have typically been conducted without due process and in the absence of arrest warrants, said Amnesty.

In April, the Malaysian government deported Thai national Praphan Pipithnamporn, an asylum-seeker who was arrested on Thailand’s request, with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad saying that they did so because Thailand was a good neighbour.

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