Cambodian woman who threw shoe at Hun Sen poster freed but faces hefty fine

A Cambodian woman jailed in 2018 for throwing her shoe at a poster of Prime Minister Hun Sen was released Wednesday after serving a four-year sentence, but faced being sent back to jail if she can’t raise 10 million riels (US $2,460) to pay a fine, she told RFA.

Sam Sokha, a former factory worker a supporter of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested in Thailand in February 2018 by Thai authorities and returned to Cambodia, despite having earlier been granted refugee status by the United Nations’ refugee agency.

On April 1, 2017, she filmed herself throwing a shoe at a poster of Hun Sen, accusing him of damaging the country. The video’s release next day on social media prompted a manhunt by police and Sam Sokha’s eventual summons to answer charges of “incitement.”

Kampong Speu Provincial Court y released Sam Sokha, but gave her just one day to raise the 10 million riels (US $2,460) or she will be jailed for another six months, she said.

“The court forced me to pay 10 million riel or they will [put me back in jail]. I will discuss it with my family. If they don’t have the money, I will return to jail for six months,” she told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“He threatened that he could order [my arrest] with a phone call and said that I can’t escape,” she said, referring to the judge.

“The court should not force her to pay money in exchange for her freedom,” said Soeung Sengkaruna, a spokesman for the Cambodia-based rights group ADHOC.

RFA was unable to reach court officials for comment.

Sam Sokha is one of dozens of CNRP supporters who’ve been detained for protests against the crackdown on the party by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 35 years.

After his arrest, Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in a move that allowed Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party to win all 125 seats in Parliament in a July 2018 election and drew U.S. sanctions and the suspension of trade privileges with the European Union.

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