The acting head of Cambodia’s opposition party, Kem Sokha, on Wednesday accused the government of using a sex scandal to attack him as a top official with the Cambodian National Rescue Party.
It was the first time Kem Sokha addressed the scandal that is swirling around him and that is threatening to damage the CNRP as it prepares for to the upcoming elections that could spell trouble for long-term Prime Minister Hun Sen and the controlling Cambodian People’s Party.
So far, two complaints have been filed related to Kem Sokha’s alleged affair with Khom Chandaraty. On May 3 Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Keo Socheat issued a summons for Kem Sokha to appear in court on May 11 to testify in a defamation lawsuit related to the scandal.
Kem Sokha declined to appear in courtroom, but he gave a speech to young members of the CNRP at the party’s headquarters.
“As some say, it is just a personal affair, so why do they spend the time, the money and use state institutions to push this?” he said. “Why do they spend so many human resources on my personal issue? If it is just solely Kem Sokha’s personal story, they might not spend this much.”
While Sokha criticized the investigation, he did not say whether the personal affair he talked about is the alleged affair with Khom Chandaraty. The May 3 court summons was the government’s first attempt to get CNRP officials to testify since a complaint was filed regarding voice recordings of alleged intimate phone conversations between Kem Sokha and the 25-year-old hairdresser.
Also on May 3, Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Seang Soka also 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.
A problem of his own making
CPP spokesperson, Sok, Eysan, told RFA that it wasn’t the ruling party that created the mess.
“If he did not commit it there would not have any complaints, and there are no related tricks as he said were set-up to harm him or to cause him problems at all,” Sok Eysan said. “He created the problems for himself, and he has not resolved it.”
While Hun Sen and the CPP have ruled the country for three decades, Cambodia’s ruling party suffered a dramatic drop in support during the country’s last election in 2013, and could see even more erosion in the 2017 commune elections and 2018 general election.
CNRP leader Sam Rainsy told RFA in a May interview that the CPP was attempting to divert attention from the issues facing Cambodia.
"We will not fall into their [the CPP's] trap," he said. "They have ties with invasive foreigners. They have been corrupt to the bone. They have sold the country’s property as if it was their own. They’ve been involved with bad investment companies that harm the Cambodian people. They will not solve these problems. To divert our attention, they have created small, unimportant and personal issues, so we will not fall for their tricks."
Reported for RFA's Khmer Service by Morm Moniroth. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.