Cambodian political commentator Kim Sok arrived safely in Finland with his daughter on Friday after gaining political asylum following weeks of hiding in Thailand under threat of arrest in Cambodia for his criticism of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Kim Sok voiced his gratitude for being allowed to remain in Finland, saying he is now “safe and sound and 100 percent free” from persecution by Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Calling Finland a country upholding freedom of expression and providing a good system of education, Kim Sok said he will use his presence in the country as an opportunity to “build my capacity to join in the future with those fighting for democracy and the rule of law [in Cambodia].”
He again thanked UN and IOM (International Organization for Migration) officials in Thailand who had helped press his case for asylum in the northern European country.
Kim Sok, 38, was jailed on Feb. 17, 2017, after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of implying that the CPP had orchestrated the 2016 murder of popular political pundit Kem Ley.
Just days before he was gunned down on July 10, 2016, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service after his release on Aug. 17, 2018, Kim Sok said that Hun Sen’s CPP had done nothing to earn a landslide victory in July 29 national elections widely dismissed as unfair following the banning of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in November and arrest of its president, Kem Sokha, two months later.
On Aug. 29, Hun Sen warned Kim Sok that he would be rearrested and thrown back into prison if he fails to pay hefty fines both to him and to the government as part of the sentence he was handed for defamation in August 2017, and demanded that the social commentator stop criticizing how he runs the country.
The court had ordered him to pay 800 million riels (U.S. $200,000) to Hun Sen and 8 million riels (U.S. $2,000) to the state.