As foreign ambassadors line up to visit the home of opposition leader Kem Sokha, this month released from house arrest, the ruling party issued a video warning the government’s “ambassador friends” not to be seen as giving advice to a criminal and dissident.
Sokha, arrested in September 2017 for allegedly working with the U.S. to topple the government, had his court restrictions relaxed on Nov. 10 and has spent recent weeks hosting meetings with ambassadors from the U.S., France, Germany, Australia, Japan, EU and other embassies.
“Ambassador friends, you might remember that Mr. Kem Sokha is under a treason charge for taking the model for overthrowing the legitimate Royal Government from a foreign country, and that Kem Sokha remains under court supervision,” a six-minute video released online on Thursday by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party says.
“Please, foreign friends, cooperate transparently with the Royal Government and our Cambodian people to prevent and prosecute illegal acts,” the video’s narrator says.
Sokha’s Cambodia National Rescue Party won 44 percent of the vote in the June 2017 local-level elections as the country’s only viable opposition party before it was dissolved five months later. The ruling CPP won all 125 parliamentary seats at a national election in July 2018, leading the EU and U.S. to criticize the vote as neither free nor fair.
The EU in February began a process to review duty-free trade with Cambodia over political and human rights concerns, and submitted its preliminary report to the government earlier this month. The government was given one month to respond before a final decision is made in February.
“If you love democracy, freedom, human rights, and want to see development in Cambodia, including better diplomatic bilateral and multilateral relations,” the CPP video says, “ambassador friends be patient: Do not conduct any activities that could present an image — or lead to the misconception — that our ambassador friends are people who provide advice to and support dissidents and sponsor violence.”
Muth Chantha, Sokha’s personal spokesperson, said the visiting ambassadors recognized Sokha as the country’s opposition leader, despite the legal dissolution of his party.
“Mr. Sokha’s relationships are for the national benefit,” Chantha added.
Despite the long line of ambassadors greeting the CNRP president, Chantha noted, Sokha had yet to receive a call from Cambodia’s powerful neighbors such as China and Vietnam.
“Until now, we have not yet been contacted by theChinese and Vietnamese embassies to Cambodia. If we receive any communications from them, I will alert the media,” he said. Sokha was open to meeting all diplomats, he added. “Mr. Sokha will not discriminate.”