Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Kem Sokha’s treason trial scheduled for Jan 15

Kem Sokha, former Cambodia National Rescue Party. Panha Chhorpoan

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday announced a January 15 trial date for Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha, who is charged with treason.

The case against Sokha, who was the opposition leader when he was arrested in September 2017, has been criticized by the E.U. and U.S. as undermining Cambodian efforts to establish democracy in the country.

“The Trial Chamber of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, handling criminal case No. 4777 dated 3 December 2019 with the charged person Kem Sokha, male, born on June 27, 1953, of a treason charge of collusion with foreigners under Article 443 of the Cambodian Criminal Code, has decided to set a trial date of January 15, 2020, at 08:30 am, in courtroom 1,” the court said in its statement.

The court last month announced it had completed its investigation into Sokha, who is accused of working with the U.S. to topple the government, and an investigating judge last week ordered that the case go to trial as there was enough evidence to proceed.

Sokha was imprisoned for about a year before being put under de facto house arrest last year. The conditions of his court supervision were relaxed last month, allowing him to travel around the country as long as he does not conduct political activities. He has not yet left his property, however, instead hosting meetings with various foreign diplomats at his house.

In a tweet on Monday, Sokha’s daughter Kem Monovithya urged the court acquit her father.

“The acquittal of Kem Sokha is absolutely necessary if: a) the court wants to demonstrate its independence, since Kem Sokha is innocent and b) the regime has the slightest interest in showing the world it will no longer use court as a political tool against dissents/opposition,” Monovithya wrote.

On Tuesday, Kem Sokha wrote in a Facebook post about International Human Rights Day that rights abuses lead to social instability.

“The protection of human rights is necessary to prevent people from being forced to oppose any form of oppression based on rebellion,” Kem Sokha said. “A society is stable only if everyone in that society has access to justice, freedom and not being abused.”

The government has rejected international criticism of its actions against Sokha and the CNRP, saying his arrest and the dissolution of his party followed proper legal procedures. It has accused the party and various opposition figures of destabilizing Cambodia’s hard-won peace.