Radio Free Asia reporters on espionage charges in Cambodia released on bail

Former journalists of Radio Free Asia (RFA) Oun Chhin (left) and Yeang Sothearin walk out of Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on August 21.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday freed on bail two former Radio Free Asia reporters who were charged with espionage, The Phnom Penh Post Online reported on Wednesday.

49-year old Oun Chhin and 35-year old Yeang Sochea Meta were arrested by officials of Meanchey district last November on suspicion of filing stories for the Washington-based radio station.  They have spent eight months in Prey Sar prison.

They were held under pre-trial detention, and if convicted, could face a 15-year jail term for supplying information to foreign agencies which undermines national security.

The two reporters were among several activists who were released in recent days, including social analyst Kim Sok on August 17 and Tep Vanny, Boeung Kak land activist on August 20.

Human rights activists lauded their release, describing it as a “positive development” taking place in Cambodia.

After the release from detention at about 6 pm on Tuesday, Meta said the release does not mean complete freedom for him and Chhin as they were released on bail and under court surveillance.

He said he would ask the court to drop the charges because they did not work for Radio Free Asia since it closed down in Phnom Penh.

RFA shut its Phnom Penh bureau last September.

Meta described his eight months in jail as similar to “life in hell”.  “Nothing happier than living with family members and relatives,” he said.


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