Third rights activist jailed in Cambodian government crackdown on critics

A third human rights activist was jailed pending trial Thursday as the Cambodian government broadened its much-criticized crackdown on critics. Pa Nguon Tieng, deputy director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, was detained late Wednesday and charged with criminal defamation against Prime Minister Hun Sen following questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, his lawyer Som Chandyna said.

Som Chandyna said Pa Nguon Tieng was jailed Thursday, joining center head Kem Sokha and legal activist Yeng Virak, who have also been charged with criminal defamation over a banner that carried handwritten messages alleging that Hun Sen sold Cambodian land to Vietnam.

The banner was used during an International Human Rights Day gathering Dec. 10. Kem Sokha and Yeng Virak, director of the Community Legal Education Center, were arrested on Dec. 31. The United States has condemned the arrests, saying they call into question the Cambodian government's commitment to democracy and human rights.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Hun Sen was following in the footsteps of the military leadership of Myanmar in jailing its opponents.

Som Chandyna, who also represents Kem Sokha, said Pa Nguon Tieng was arrested when he and two other colleagues attempted to cross a border checkpoint to Laos after finishing work in the Cambodian border province of Stung Treng, reports the AP. I.L.

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