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April 16, 2024

Brother of jailed Cambodian American lawyer says she’s in good health

The brother of a jailed Cambodian American lawyer Theary Seng visited her in prison on Friday and later told Radio Free Asia that she appeared to be in good health following her 10-day hunger strike in December that required hospital treatment.

“She is doing fine physically and emotionally,” said Mardi Seng, a newly-elected senator from the opposition Khmer Will Party.

“She has remained the same. She is strong,” he said. “She has maintained her stand saying she didn’t commit any crimes. She hopes the government will release her soon.”

As a pro-democracy advocate and human rights activist, Theary Seng became well-known for dressing herself in elaborate costumes at public protests, including as the Statue of Liberty. 

Her 2022 treason conviction stemmed from her failed efforts in 2019 to bring about the return to Cambodia of opposition leader Sam Rainsy. She was sentenced to six years in prison. 

In December, she announced a hunger strike to demand her release. After a week of fasting, prison officials sent her to a Phnom Penh hospital for an examination. 

Cambodian American lawyer Theary Seng arrives dressed as a chained Statue of Liberty for her treason verdict at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, June 14, 2022. (Prak Chan Thul/Reuters)

Mardi Seng said his sister now jumps rope every day as part of her exercise routine in prison.

“She is trying her best to make sure she stays healthy,” he said.

The brief hospital visit in December allowed an Appeals Court hearing to be delayed. It was unclear when the next hearing would take place.

Mardi Seng said they recently fired Theary Seng’s Cambodian lawyers. She plans to represent herself wherever the next hearing takes place, he told RFA.

Last year, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a judgment calling her detention “arbitrary, politically motivated, and in violation of international law.”

U.S.-based international human rights lawyer Jared Genser said in July that he was pushing for the United States to designate her case as “wrongfully detained” under the Levinson Act, a 2020 law that would allow sanctions to be imposed on individuals responsible for holding American citizens hostage.

Mardi Seng spent much of his childhood in Michigan with Theary Seng and their other three brothers. He told RFA they returned to Cambodia after their university education “to restore the country.” 

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 55 of 58 seats in the Feb. 25 Senate election. Mardi Seng said that he and the other two senators from the Khmer Will Party see their victories as a “new start” for helping people “who are voiceless and powerless.”

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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