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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 07:49 GMT
Cambodian leader drops lawsuits

President of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights Kem Sokha (2ndR), deputy director Pa Nguon Teang(1stR), Community Legal Education Centre director Yeng Virak(1st L), 23 January 2006.
The arrests sparked fears for Cambodia's democracy
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has dropped defamation charges against at least four activists who criticised him, after pressure at home and abroad.

The four - a journalist, union leader, and two human rights activists - were arrested after they accused Hun Sen of ceding Cambodian land to Vietnam.

Hun Sen said he was dropping the charges because he had received letters of apology from the accused.

The four were freed on bail last week after a visit by a US diplomat.

They were journalist Mom Sonando, union leader Rong Chhun, and activists Kem Sokha and Pa Nguon Tieng.

A fifth man, Yeng Virak, another activist, was freed on bail the week before. It was not immediately clear if Hun Sen was dropping charges against him too.

Hun Sen told reporters he had decided to tell his lawyers to withdraw the lawsuits and "put a smooth end to this affair through compromise".

"Those letters written by those men are enough for me," he said. "For my part, it is finished."

Several other critics left the country last year before they could be arrested, raising fears about the strength of Cambodia's democracy.

Hun Sen said he was prepared to forgive these people too if they also wrote him letters of apology.

But there is no sign of leniency towards exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who was sentenced in absentia last month to 18 months in prison for remarks he made about the governing coalition.

Cambodia activist freed on bail
11 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Cambodia clamps down on dissent
07 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Cambodia charges another activist
05 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Cambodia arrests rights activist
31 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Cambodia sentences Sam Rainsy
22 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Sam Rainsy
03 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Cambodia
08 Jan 05 |  Country profiles

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