Defendants in a trial involving youth and political activists, who protested the arrest of unionist Rong Chhun last year, continued to reject prior statements made to the police and investigating officials alleging that they were coerced or falsified.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court continued the trial against 15 activists from youth groups Khmer Thavrak and Khmer Student Intelligent League Association who are charged with incitement for participating in protests calling for the release of Rong Chhun, who was arrested in July for comments he made about the Cambodia and Vietnam border.
Apart from three former CNRP officials, five “absconding” individuals are also charged with incitement, including the CNRP’s Ho Vann, Ou Chanrith, Kong Saphea and Seng Bunrong – and Hong Lim, a former member of parliament in the Australian state of Victoria.
Defendants Hun Vannak, Chhoeun Daravy, Eng Malai, Koeut Saray and Tha Lavy are activists with Khmer Thavrak, and Mean Prummony and Moung Sopheak are part of the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association.
Chhour Pheng, one of 15 defendants, said he rejected any answers given to the authorities at the police station where he was questioned because he did not read the statement before accepting it.
Similarly, Chum Puthy, another former CNRP official, retracted his statement claiming that he was having issues with his memory because of cellphone network jamming equipment used at the Prey Sar prison, where he is in pre-trial detention.
“I always have a headache and I have also got itchiness and a skin disease,” Puthy said.
At this point, defense lawyer Sam Sokong requested that the cross-examination of Puthy be postponed till he could get a medical checkup but Judge Tith Sothy Borachat denied the motion.
Former CNRP district councilor Kong Sam An and KSILA’s Mean Prummony denied the accusations against them, denying committing any crimes to justify the charge.
“I have only once come in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court to shoot a live stream about activities of the people protesting for the release of Rong Chhun,” said Prummony.
“In the past, I have always seen security forces using violence against the people but the people did not use violence and are always protesting peacefully.”
Men Hengtith, chief of Phnom Penh police’s Internal Security, said police officials would never coerce a statement or force someone to thumbprint a document or confession.
“The police will never force them,” Hengtith said. “The truth is the truth.”
Nuth Savna, a spokesperson at the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prison, welcomed an investigation into accusations of radiation affecting the health of inmates.
“I do not know how the [equipment] will have an effect? Not unless experts go to review concerns raised by some inmates that it affected their health,” Savna said.
“If it has an effect, it will affect my officials too.”
The trial will resume on March 2.