Stepping up its legal pursuit of Radio Free Asia journalist Chun Chanboth, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today issued an arrest warrant for the reporter, hours after his lawyers presented the court with a written statement refuting the allegation that he misrepresented himself to sneak into Prey Sar prison.
Chanboth was scheduled to appear before the court for questioning in relation to allegations that he concealed his identity in order to enter the prison with a delegation of opposition lawmakers, but Radio Free Asia confirmed last night that the reporter had been asked to return to the United States for fear of his safety and the politicised nature of the case.
Chanboth had been seeking to secure an interview with jailed analyst and commentator Kim Sok – whom the rights group Licadho classes as a political prisoner – and observers have pointed to the case as part of a heavy-handed attempt to deny media access to politically sensitive prisoners.
Yesterday’s warrant, issued by deputy prosecutor Seang Sok, asks law enforcement officials to bring in Chanboth in order to be questioned in relation to the charge of making a “false declaration”. The charge carries a maximum of two years in prison.
Chanboth, who reports under a pseudonym and whose real name is Huot Vuthy, was in Thailand over the weekend and was expected to be back in the Kingdom in time for the summons – a point that Seang Sok appeared to have taken umbrage with.
“On May 2, the suspect did not show up as per the summons and did not keep his promise like stated clearly in his informing letter dated 28 April 2017,” a court report reads, referring to a letter Chanboth sent court informing it of his travel to Thailand.