Cambodian Court Calls on Deputy Opposition Leader to Testify in Defamation Lawsuit

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Cambodian opposition party deputy leader Kem Sokha (L) smiles as he walks into the municipal court in Phnom Penh on April 8, 2015.
Cambodian opposition party deputy leader Kem Sokha (L) smiles as he walks into the municipal court in Phnom Penh on April 8, 2015.

A court in Phnom Penh issued a summons on Tuesday for deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha to testify in a defamation lawsuit related to leaked recordings of intimate phone conversations he allegedly had with a mistress, an opposition lawmaker said.

Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Keo Socheat issued the summons for Kem Sokha, vice president and acting president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), to appear in court on May 11 to testify in a defamation lawsuit filed by Thy Sovantha, said senior CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay.

Thy Sovantha, 20, filed the lawsuit because Kem Sokha, during his conversations with the other woman, allegedly claimed she used her reputation as a CNRP activist to steal money from overseas donors, according to a Khmer Times report.

Also on Tuesday, Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Seang Sok issued two summonses for CNRP lawmakers Pin Ratana and To Vanchan to testify on May 16 on prostitution charges against the alleged mistress Khem Chandaraty, said Son Chhay.

This is the first time that the municipal court has called CNRP lawmakers to testify since the filing of a complaint regarding voice recordings of alleged intimate phone conversations between Kem Sokha and 25-year-old hairdresser Khem Chandaraty, he said.

Although the court is squeezing the opposition party, the pressure will not affect the CNRP’s popularity or diminish the people’s support for it, Son Chhay said.

“I always see it when there is intimidation or persecution of the opposition—the people will support us even more, and we will win more seats in the National Assembly,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

The CNRP will try to wrest power from Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) when general elections are held in 2017-18.

Political commentator summoned

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court will also summon political commentator Ou Virak to appear on May 12 in relation to a defamation lawsuit filed last week by CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, The Phnom Penh Post reported on Tuesday.

The complaint arose from Ou Virak’s recent interview with RFA during which he allegedly claimed that the CPP had orchestrated the sex scandal involving Kem Sokha, the report said.

Ou Virak denies the allegation, the report said.

On Monday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sent four staffers from the domestic rights group Adhoc to notorious Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of the capital on charges of bribing a witness and acting as accomplices in the sex scandal.

Adhoc had provided financial and legal services to Khem Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom, who has accused the rights group of urging her to lie to police about the alleged affair.

The court also charged a former Adhoc officer who is now deputy secretary general of Cambodia’s National Election Committee, and Sally Soen, an employee with the U. N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), with conspiring to bribe a witness in the case, despite the latter’s diplomatic immunity, local media reported.

Prosecutors told local media in April that Khem Chandaraty admitted that it was her voice on leaked audio recordings of conversations between herself and Kem Sokha. The recordings were posted on her Facebook page, which she said had been hacked.

Although she previously denied that the voices belonged to her and Kem Sokha, she recanted her story two weeks ago under questioning by police on charges of prostitution and false testimony.

Reported by Sothearin Yeang for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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