Cambodian activist decries delayed release of autistic son

Nov 7, 2021, 11:50 PM | Updated: 11:56 pm

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian activist wept in frustration Monday after learning her autistic teenage son, imprisoned for comments critical of the government he made on social media, would not be released as anticipated in a case that has drawn global attention.

Prum Chantha told disappointed supporters who had gathered with her early in the day outside Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh that authorities said her son’s time served had been miscounted, and that he would instead be released Wednesday.

“My son would have been feeling so excited when hearing he would be freed today and knowing that I was here with the others to welcome him, but now they’re keeping him in jail for two more days,” she said.

“Why would the court keep him in jail?”

Her son, 16-year-old Kak Sovannchhay, was convicted last week of incitement to commit a felony and public insult for comments he had made in a Telegram chat group in June defending his father, a senior political opposition member who is himself in custody facing charges, and for sharing Facebook posts criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Kak Sovannchhay was sentenced to eight months in prison but he had been in custody since June. Under Cambodian sentencing guidelines including credit for time served, he was scheduled for release this week and the family had been told it would take place Monday.

In a statement after his conviction, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court said that his age had been a factor in reducing his jail time, and said that it had received no medical confirmation of his autism during the trial.

Observers said, however, that during the trial, the court refused two requests to evaluate the boy’s disability and support needs.

Many criticized the verdict, including U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy who said in a Twitter post that the case seemed to be “politically motivated.”

“How does jailing the teenage son of an opposition figure demonstrate respect for human rights?” Murphy wrote.

Prum Chantha is a member of the group Friday Wives, which holds protests to demand the release of their husbands who have been jailed for expressing their views critical of Hun Sen’s government. Her husband, Kak Komphear, has been in detention since May 2020.

She said Monday that she had no intention of backing down, despite her son’s prosecution.

“The authorities wanted to intimidate us and wanted us to stop opposing them,” she said.

The posts the teen made came in response to others calling his father a traitor, she said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for 36 years and has often been accused of heading an authoritarian regime and using the judicial system to help stifle opposition.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, urged Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne to bring up the case and others with Cambodian officials before she concludes her two-day trip to the country later Monday.

“Penalizing a boy with mental disabilities because of the activities of his father shows just how far the human rights situation in Cambodia has deteriorated,” he said in a written statement.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Caroline Hansen uses Emma's Premium Services, a higher-priced service according to Hansen, to shop ...
Associated Press

New York restricts families from sending packages to inmates

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — As part of an effort to keep illegal drugs and other contraband out of state prisons, New York is taking away one of the few pleasures of life behind bars: It will no longer let people send inmates care packages from home. Under the new policy, which the state began phasing […]
7 hours ago
FILE - People gather, at the band stand in Clapham Common, in memory of Sarah Everard, after an off...
Associated Press

UK drops prosecution of protesters over slain woman’s vigil

LONDON (AP) — British authorities have quashed plans to prosecute protesters who attended a vigil for a murdered woman in breach of pandemic lockdown rules — a killing, and a response, that ignited a storm of criticism of the London police force and its attitude toward women’s safety. The Crown Prosecution Service said Sunday that […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

Svika Pick, prolific Israeli singer-songwriter, dies at 72

JERUSALEM (AP) — Svika Pick, a pillar of Israel’s music industry who gained international attention after his song won the Eurovision Song Contest, has died. He was 72. Pick, known as “the Maestro” in Israeli pop circles, was a singer, composer and prolific songwriter who penned dozens of No. 1 hits. After news of his […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the F...
Associated Press

More US lawmakers visiting Taiwan 12 days after Pelosi trip

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A delegation of American lawmakers is visiting Taiwan just 12 days after a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that angered China. The five-member delegation, led by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, will meet senior leaders to discuss U.S.-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade, investment and other issues, the American […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Attorney Drew Findling makes remarks regarding his client, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hil...
Associated Press

Top lawyers hired by those linked to Georgia election probe

ATLANTA (AP) — In the state investigation spurred by then-President Donald Trump’s call to Georgia’s top election official, people who have been called to testify — or who might be — about potential interference in the 2020 presidential contest are turning to high-profile lawyers. Trump has hired Drew Findling, one of Atlanta’s most prominent criminal […]
7 hours ago
A Ukrainian serviceman prays during a service at St. Michael's Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Mos...
Associated Press

Shelling kills 1 in Ukraine; Russia wants nuke plant pledges

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces on Sunday fired rockets on the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, killing at least one person, and a Russian diplomat called on Ukraine to offer security assurances so that international inspectors could visit a nuclear power station that has come under fire. The Mykolaiv region is just to the […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Cambodian activist decries delayed release of autistic son