PHNOM PENH, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly said Friday that the country has "no political prisoners, but politicians with criminal offences."
His remarks were made after the opposition party and human rights activists repeatedly appealed to the government to release political prisoners.
U.S. President Barack Obama also expressed the need for Cambodia to release political prisoners during a bilateral meeting with Hun Sen on Monday while he visited Cambodia to attend a series of the Summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Obama highlighted, for instance, one case of a radio broadcaster Mam Sonando who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
"Cambodia has no political prisoners, but politicians with criminal acts," Hun Sen said Friday during a ceremony to deliver land titles to residents in Preah Vihear province.
"They want me to intervene, but they allege that I control judicial system, so if I intervene to release prisoners, it means that I influence the judicial system," he said.
"The judicial system is independent, I cannot intervene," the premier said. "You committed criminal acts, you must be jailed."
Besides Mam Sonando's case, Cambodian court sentenced self- exiled Sam Rainsy, leader of the country's main opposition party, to 11 years in jail in absentia for two counts -- publishing a false map of the border with Vietnam and accusing Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of being a member of the Democratic Kampuchea, or known as Khmer Rouge regime.
In addition, the court has jailed a handful of people involved in land protests or illegal land possession.
Opposition and human rights activists called the imprisonments "a political motivation."
Hun Sen warned that people in land disputes should not seek interventions from politicians or non-governmental organizations or he would not solve the issues for them.