Cambodia's Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday denied Kim Sok’s request to delay a hearing so the social and political commentator can find time to hire an attorney in a $500,000 lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Court spokesman Ly Sophanna told RFA’s Khmer Service that Kim Sok’s motion to delay was denied without comment. The hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Hun Sen sued Kim Sok on Monday for “inciting social chaos” over accusations that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had orchestrated the July 2016 murder of popular political analyst Kem Ley. Hun Sen heads the CPP.
Kim Sok told RFA that he couldn’t find a lawyer quickly because the attorneys he contacted were shying away from the case, or cost more than he could afford.
“There are two reasons that they can’t help me,” he said. “One is my case is a big, serious case, and two, I haven’t found a free lawyer to help me in this case yet, so that I am trying to earn more money in order to hire a proper lawyer.”
Kim Sok told RFA that what he said about the murder of Kem Ley was not an accusation, but a reflection of what many Cambodians believe.
“A person who is speaking the truth and wants justice is not a person who is creating social chaos,” he told RFA earlier this week. “A person who creates serious social chaos is a person who doesn’t respect the law.”
Cambodian courts are notorious for their lack of independence, and opposition politicians and critics of Hun Sen often find themselves before the courts on various charges.
A new case
Kim Sok’s legal problems are only likely to multiply as Hun Sen sued him a second time today. The second lawsuit is based on comments Kim Sok made to RFA when explaining the initial comments that got him into trouble. Hun Sen attorney Ky Tech said Hun Sen is demanding 10 million riel (U.S. $2,500) in the new suit.
He told RFA that if Kim Sok can’t pay, the court will take a measure against him.
“A person who does wrong can’t just run away without compensation,” Ky Tech said. “If he doesn’t have money, the court will send him to jail.”
During a speech inaugurating a bridge along the Cambodian-Chinese border in Kandal province on Monday, Hun Sen said Kim Sok was inciting social chaos and threatened him with jail and monetary forfeiture.
“Maybe you will face two years in prison and have to pay all the money,” Hun Sen said. “Don’t even say you don’t have money. If you don’t have the compensation money, we will confiscate your house and sell it.”
Monks’ protest planned
Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
Although authorities charged a former soldier, identified as Oueth Ang, with the killing, many in Cambodia don’t believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the man over a debt. The accused killer had never moved in the same circles as Kem Ley and had used the alias Chuop Samlap, which roughly translated means “meet to kill.”
Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.
On Dec. 23 the Phnom Penh court quietly closed its investigation into the case without revealing its findings.
Buddhist monk But Buntenh, founder of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice told RFA that he will walk with Kim Sok to Phnom Penh Court on Friday in a show of solidarity.
He told RFA that several other monks plan to join Kim Sok to march from the Chroy Changva bridge area to the courthouse in a prayerful manner.
Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.