October 16, 2018

Kim Sok to keep up fight ‘for change’ from Finland

Kim Sok in a cafe in Tampere, Finland, yesterday after being granted political asylum by the Finnish government. Photo supplied

Ben Sokhean | The Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 15 October 2018 | 10:34 ICT

Kim Sok, wanted by the Kingdom’s authorities for defaming the government, reiterated on Sunday his determination to continue helping to make “a real change” to Cambodian politics after receiving asylum in Finland, even as a government spokesman mocked the political analyst over the development.

Speaking to The Post on Sunday, the government critic said he had arrived in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, on Friday before moving to a permanent place of residence.

Sok claimed that though he was now far from the Kingdom, he would continue his attempts to bring about change.

“Before I go to bed, what I think about is Cambodia, and after I get up, what I think about is Cambodia. I have never thought about my own or my family’s interests over the interests of Cambodia."

“So though I am [in Finland], I will continue my work to make a real change in Cambodia. But it does not mean that my arrival here is a happy event."

“My arrival here makes me pity my country more . . . how the country arrived at this difficult point,” he said.

But Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that Sok had criticised the government merely in order to be given asylum.

“For [critics of the Cambodian government], they just want the chance to be offered asylum and the right to be a servant in that country."

“[Kim Sok] was just looking for the chance to move to a different country.”

Sok said he and his six-year-old daughter fled to Thailand on August 30 after Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to have him arrested again for defamation. He also claimed that he and his daughter had received threats to their safety.

He said he had applied for asylum two weeks after fleeing to Thailand.

Sok said he had received asylum so quickly because of assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

He also believed the Finnish Embassy in Bangkok had provided him help to avoid being extradited to Cambodia.

“How could I get to [Finland] so fast? It was quick because the [risk of arrest] from the ruling [Cambodian People’s Party is so serious and my freedom has been restricted so dramatically.

“But I would like to use my right not to comment on the procedures of the UNHCR and IOM as they worked very efficiently,” he said.

Sok said on Sunday that he and his daughter would receive support from the Finnish government to settle before eventually being granted citizenship.

He said after stepping onto Finnish soil, he is “100 per cent safe” and regarded Finland as a “heaven for good people”.

“Finland is like heaven for good people and it is different from what I have seen, known and experienced in Cambodia. Cambodia is heaven for dishonest people and for traitors to live happily,” he claimed.

The Finnish embassy in Bangkok did not respond to a request for comment from The Post as of press time on Sunday.

Kim Sok was found guilty in two cases last year for “incitement to commit a felony and public defamation”.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of eight million riel ($2,000). He was also ordered to pay 800 million riel ($200,000) in compensation to Hun Sen.

After serving 18 months in prison, he continued to criticise the government, accusing it of administering “rule by law”.

As a result, the prime minister ordered his lawyers to demand $200,000 in compensation, and if Sok could not pay then he would be jailed.

On September 14, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a warrant for Sok’s arrest after he failed to appear on the same day.

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