Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Kem Sokha insists he has no connection to Sam Rainsy

Former opposition leader Kem Sokha waves to supporters as he arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to attend a hearing on treason charges, January 25, 2022. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Former opposition leader Kem Sokha waves to supporters as he arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to attend a hearing on treason charges, January 25, 2022. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

At his hearing Wednesday, former opposition leader Kem Sokha said he no longer had any affiliation with exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and said there was no basis for the treason charges filed against him.

“The point is whether I remain with that person [Sam Rainsy] or not,” Sokha, former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP),  told court officials. “[Now] I stop with him.”

On May 11, Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a meeting with his supporters in Washington that the Cambodian government had never accused the United States government of being linked to Sokha’s case.

Referring to those words in court Wednesday, Sokha said the statement meant he could not have conspired with a foreign government. 

“I have not conspired with the United States or other countries,” Sokha said. He noted that there have been no documents showing he colluded with foreigners or secretly negotiated with them.

Kem Sokha was arrested in September 2017 for allegedly attempting to launch a so-called color revolution. Shortly after his arrest, the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court, with scores of party members arrested on what are widely believed to be politically motivated charges. Many of its top leaders went into exile and more than 100 party members were barred from political participation for five years.

After years of delays, Sokha’s trial resumed in January 2022, with hearings held just once every week.

In response to Sokha’s court statement, deputy prosecutor Plang Samnang insisted there was adequate proof of his having conspired with foreign powers.

“The act of the defendant was done, and he has been doing, and continuing the plan to overthrow the government,” he said. At Samnang’s request, the presiding judge replayed an hour-long video filmed in Australia of Sokha speaking to his supporters. While prosecutors claim it showed Sokha’s intent to overthrow the government, he appears to only be encouraging people to vote.

Co-defense lawyer Chan Chen, told reporters after the hearing that the court should drop charges against Sokha as the prosecution has presented no inculpatory evidence against him.

“We think that all parties involved have already shown [all their evidence], so the court should drop charges against my client and stop the hearing,” he said. Chen noted that the film Samnang asked the court to play showed Sokha never once encouraged supporters “to use violence or topple [the government].”

Em Sovannara, a political analyst, said that Sokha’s statement of having no affiliation with Rainsy is a sign of a “break up and weakening opposition party,” which was the ruling party’s ultimate goal. 

He also pointed out that Hun Sen announced the government had not accused the US, meaning there is no solid inculpatory evidence. 

Commune elections are set to be held June 5 — the first to be held since the dissolution of the CNRP.

Son Chhay, vice president of the Candlelight Party — one of several small opposition parties made up of former CNRP members — said that Sokha’s statement won’t have any negative impact on the upcoming commune council election.

“I don’t know what difficulty he has met, and I don’t know his purpose, so I don’t want to comment instead of him,” he said.

The hearing will continue on June 1.

391 views