Cambodian American Human Rights Defender Theary Seng Head to Sham Trial

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – On December 7, 2021, American-Cambodian human rights defender and democracy advocate Theary Seng will appear before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to answer for politically motivated charges related to her activism and criticism of the Hun Sen regime. 

Theary Seng speaks to journalists outside of the Phnom Penh Court on Thanksgiving Day, 2020.

In a press release statement to the Khmer Post USA about the forthcoming trial, Ms. Seng said, “The violations against me and the many others on trial reflect Cambodia’s long and ungraceful fall from the promises it made to serve and protect its people.  It is a descent that has not just been felt by Cambodians, but also observed and documented by the international community.” 

 In November 2020, Seng was notified that she had been charged with “conspiracy to commit treason and incitement to create gross chaos impacting public security.”  These baseless charges carry up to 12 years in prison.  She was initially charged as part of a group of defendants comprised mainly of former officials and members of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), including its leader Sam Rainsy, despite having no official party affiliation. 

Seng was initially summoned to appear before a magistrate on November 26, 2020.  Her trial was repeatedly postponed and then delayed indefinitely, in violation of her right to a prompt trial under international law.  On November 23, 2021, Ms. Seng received a summons to again appear before a magistrate on December 7.  Ms. Seng and 41 others are defendants in the December 7 mass trial. 

From Theary Seng face’s book, Khmer Post USA learned that the American Bar Association and the Clooney Foundation will again monitor her trial hearing. At the trial, Ms. Seng will represent herself.  Jared Genser, former law school classmate and friend of Ms. Seng’s for over 20 years, will be in Cambodia to support her. 

Editor’s note: the Khmer Post USA learned that Theary Seng and 41 other defenders were divided into into three groups. Their hearings are postponed again. Theary’s hearing will be on December 28. Later, the judges said they intended to handle out all the verdicts by March 8, 2022. Please read Jared Genser for the full report of the hearing from an international human rights lawyer’s eyes.