Cambodia: Update: Court Releases Two Human Rights Activists on Bail


Urgent Appeal Case: UA990120

On 20 January 1999 the Cambodian Court of Appeals this morning overturned a Sihanoukville Municipal Court Order and granted bail to two human rights campaigners from LICADHO (Cambodian League for Promotion of Human Rights), a human rights organization. The arrestees had been in detention for nearly a month. The Appeals Court held that the detention was illegal and unnecessary. The court stated that the arrestees have fix residences and LICADHO has undertaken to provide surety in their cases. A third detainee, a market vendor, who refused to testify against the two human rights workers, was also granted release on bail.

On 21 December 1998, Mr Seng Sok Kim and Mr Meas Minear, both staff of the Cambodian League for Human Rights [LICADHO] were arrested by police. Mr. Seng Sok Kim is the Sihanoukville Coordinator of LICADHO. They were charged by the Sihanoukville Court for robbery and inciting people to riot. The Asian Human Rights Commission [refer to AHRC UA 981224] believes that the two were arrested for protesting against the dumping of toxic waste and called for their immediate release.


Cambodian human rights and other NGOs have initiated a massive local and international protest in order to obtain the release of the two activists.

The arrests were related to protests over the toxic waste dumped in Sihanoukville at the beginning of December by a Taiwanese company. The news of the waste dumping spread as one person died in the area. Residents of the city and nearby began to flee the area and a spontaneous protest movement arose demanding immediate action. The protest, which lead to some damage, showed the intensity of the people’s anger at being victimized by toxic dumping. The demonstrations also served to create international protest against the scandal of the dumping. Following the protest, the Cambodian government accused some officials of conniving with the foreign company and demanded that the company clear the waste. The LICADHO workers had actually helped in formulating a peaceful petition to obtain redress for the dumping.

The two LICADHO workers were arrested by the authorities as a measure to intimidate the protestors. It is widely believed that the arrest of the two activists was political and also intended to send a message and warning to the Cambodian human rights and NGO community. They were accused of inciting people to violence, although there was no evidence at all to support such an allegation. The accused completely denied the charges against them. The complaint letters against the two workers were taken down after they had already been arrested.

Before ordering bail, the court carefully listened to the arguments of the detainees’ lawyers, (Mr) Chea Dara and (Ms) Chinda Sean, and to the prosecutor, who did not object to their reasoning. After questioning the lawyers the Court retired for a short time for deliberations. Later it gave its order in writing. The Court’s order was received with solemn applause.

The proceeding which were conducted in a very orderly manner showed the maturity of the emerging legal profession and assertiveness of the higher judiciary. It was not long ago that three appeal court judges were suspended for overturning a similar decision.

The Cambodian NGOs will continue to lobby support so that this success will be followed by the release of the two activists and a just settlement of their case. Action against the toxic waste is also continuing.

This campaign has received strong popular support.


We encourage you to continue writing email, faxes and letters.You may write your letters to Prime Minister Hun Sen and U.N.Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia Thomas Hammarberg, while appreciating the Court of Appeals’ bail which released Mr Seng Sok Kim and Mr Meas Minear,both staff of the Cambodian League for Human Rights [LICADHO] in Sihanoukville.

– the human rights workers need to be protected from the abuse of power by the authorities for political reason
– human rights and NGO community are part of the civil society in any democratic country
– urge the Cambodian government to make an enquiry into the toxic waste dumping in Shihanoukville and those responsible to be reprimanded.


His Excellency Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Office of the Council of Ministers, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Fax: (855) 23-426-054

CC Copies To:

Mr. Thomas Hammberburg, UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, D-519 Palais des Nations, Geneva 10, Switzerland. Fax: 22 – 917 0022, Email:

Ms. Mary Robinson, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palais des Nations, 8-14 avenue de la Paix, CH 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. Tel: (41 22) 9173456; Fax number: (41 22) 9170213; E-mail:

and to the diplomatic representative of Cambodia accredited to your country.

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA990120
Countries : Cambodia,