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Thursday, December 08, 2022

Cambodian dissident dressed as ‘Lady Justice’ for trial

Phnom Penh, Cambodia ( Associated Press) — An outspoken critic of Cambodia’s government dressed as “Lady Justice,” complete with scale and blindfold, to draw attention to her case, as lawyers at her trial presented its final arguments on Tuesday.

Cambodian-American lawyer Thierry Seng is charged with conspiracy to commit treason and abetment to commit felony, which together carry a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. The allegations stemmed from a failed attempt by prominent opposition figure Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia in November 2019 after a period of self-exile. Cambodian officials, who opposed her return, alleged that Thierry Seng was involved in organizing the visit, which she denies.

Four other defendants being tried on the same charges are former members and activists of the dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, of which Sam Rainsie was a co-founder. Thierry Sang denies belonging to the party.

“I’m not afraid of prison. I am ready. If this dictatorial, autocratic rule continues with its injustice against justice then I am ready to go to jail. That’s why I’m not afraid of prison,” Thierry Seung told reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2017 for allegedly plotting to seize power, but it is widely believed that it took action to help ensure Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party will win the 2018 general election. His ruling party made a clean sweep of the seats in the National Assembly.

Opponents of Hun Sen, who has been in power for 37 years, criticize him for acting in an autocratic manner and keeping the opposition on a tightrope. He has said that he intends to remain in office until 2028 and has supported one of his sons to be his successor.

To publicize his case, Thierry Seung on Tuesday dressed as Lady Justice, a symbol of the law, traditionally depicted as a Roman goddess, carrying a sword and a scale of balance. He is wearing a blindfold and flowers in his hair. On previous trial days, she wore a prison-style orange dress with ankle ties and, as a classical Cambodian nymph dancer, told reporters she was expressing her belief that the trial was “political theatre”.

She did not attend Tuesday’s court hearing when a security guard refused to let her inside until she removed flowers from her hair and left a sword and scales outside the courtroom. She stayed out with supporters and journalists and allowed her lawyer to represent her.

“I am ‘Lady Justice.’ “It is unjust when law is not based on justice. My weapon is truth. Truth is eternal. … Truth is freedom.”

His lawyer, Chong Chow Ngi, said the court is expected to deliver the verdict on June 14.

In a case related to this, in March, the court had convicted 21 people of treason. and related charges for his nonviolent political opposition to the government of Cambodia. Seven exiled leaders of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party received 10-year prison sentences in absentia, including Sam Rainsi, who has been in exile since 2016. The other 13 defendants were ordinary party supporters who were ordered by the court to serve more than three years.

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