Cambodia Court Summons Opposition Politicians Over Park Clash

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Kem Sokha in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, July 25, 2014.
Kem Sokha in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, July 25, 2014.

A court in Phnom Penh has summoned the deputy chief and seven lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) for questioning in connection with a violent clash last month which erupted when party supporters tried to force the reopening of Freedom Park in the capital.

Investigating judge Keo Mony issued a subpoena to the eight politicians as well as another party member on Thursday, ordering the nine to appear at an Aug. 11 hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

CNRP deputy chief Kem Sokha, who was among those summoned, told RFA’s Khmer Service that the order amounted to a “political show,” saying he was not at the July 15 protest that left at least 40 injured following the clash between party supporters and security guards at the park.

The seven lawmakers and one party member had earlier been detained and charged with “insurrection” for their role in the protest.

They were released about a week later after a July 22 agreement between the CNRP and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) that ended a year of political deadlock following disputed July 28, 2013 general elections.

CNRP President Sam Rainsy has said that their release was part of the deal.

Kem Sokha said Friday that he was surprised by the court order as he had explained to the investigating judge last Friday that he had nothing to do with the protests.

“[Keo Mony] asked me [at the previous hearing on July 25] if I knew what had happened on July 15 and where I was at the time, and I told him that I was not there and did not know the incident had taken place,” Kem Sokha said.

Kem Sokha said he had told Keo Mony that he was at his farm in Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Leur district on the day of the violence.

“Then [the judge] repeated, ‘Your Excellency was not present at the scene, and so did not know what happened,’ before saying that he didn’t know what else to ask me. So that meant it was the end of the case.”

The CNRP deputy president said that the opposition protesters “acted on their own” after guards at Freedom Park had tried to pull down a banner hung by the CNRP calling on the government to reopen the park, sparking the clash.

The park is the only place where protests were allowed in the capital until it was closed to the public in January following a deadly crackdown on CNRP-backed striking workers.

Under the July 22 agreement, forged by Hun Sen and CNRP leader Sam Rainsy, the ruling party pledged to adopt key reforms to the government-appointed electoral body, the National Election Committee (NEC), which named the CPP winner of last year’s polls despite widespread claims that the elections were rigged.

The opposition, meanwhile, agreed to join the National Assembly (parliament), which it had boycotted since the vote, though no date has been set for the lawmakers to swear in.

Returning to parliament

Working groups from the two parties are discussing the finer points of the agreement, with the CNRP pushing for immunity from prosecution for all new members of the NEC and an independent budget for the body before joining the National Assembly, CNRP sources said.

Independent analyst Kem Ley told RFA that the CPP was using the threat of legal proceedings over the July 15 clashes against the nine opposition politicians as leverage to pressure the 55 CNRP MPs to swear into parliament as soon as possible.

“This clearly shows that the court is a tool for politicians to use in their political competitiveness,” he said.

In a recent letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Sam Rainsy said that if NEC members are granted immunity and independent budgets, CNRP lawmakers could be ready to join parliament “next week.”

As part of reforms agreed to for the NEC, four members will be nominated by each party, with a key ninth member jointly selected.

The two parties earlier this week agreed to nominate top local human rights campaigner Pung Chhiv Kek to be the ninth member of the new committee.

She has demanded that NEC members be given immunity from prosecution, are guaranteed independent decision-making, given the right to recruit expert staff, and are allowed to operate autonomous budgets.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (4)

Anonymous Reader

Ha Ha Ha, I would like teenagers put pictures of judge Keo Mony and his family on facebooks and youtube, let the whole world know this kind of people.

Aug 05, 2014 01:16 AM

Pol Pot

Again! A Khmer's cultural oddness.

In a country where people live under PPP 2.5K US$/year (IMF list/Wikipedia)and the "Cambodia National Rescue Party" brass drive big "CAR" and prodded their stooges to "protest" for a "CAR PARK" called "Freedom Park". How bazen! LOL. CNRP stands probably for "Cambodian Naughty Rascal Pigs". Nomen est Omen, indeed!

"July 15 protest that left at least 40 injured..." I wonder how many Khmer could die or be injured if these "CNRP" came to power? Probably the world may witness the 2nd genocide à la Pol Pot and this time the Vietcong pigs wouldn't dare to come to rescue the poor Khmer people, but probably the Criminal Chinese Pigs (CCP)...LOL

Aug 02, 2014 05:12 AM

Anonymous Reader

Geeze I wonder how many more people will be killed, how many more people will be evicted from their land, how much more forests will be destroyed, how much more money his cronies will be making on the backs of the poor if Hun Sen and his Criminal People Party(CPP) continue to reign?

Oh, don't forget to compare Hun Sen's fleet of luxury cars, his mansions bigger than Rainsy and Sokha combined, not to mention Hun Sen's private plane using the state's money to purchase, which is belonged to the people. Hun Sen can only be compared to Mafia or drug cartel not CNRP.

Aug 02, 2014 10:36 PM

Anonymous Reader

If there is no immunity there won't be independence NEC. Simple as that.

Don't compare or look to existing laws in local or international level. Laws are created because there were no laws to begin with. In addition, society creates laws to solve problems. Don't you think NEC has credibility problems? So if there was no immunity law for NEC, then create one for it, stupid.

Aug 01, 2014 11:26 PM

Anonymous Reader

"She has demanded that NEC members be given immunity from prosecution, are guaranteed independent decision-making, given the right to recruit expert staff, and are allowed to operate autonomous budgets."

CPP should grant all her demands. If they don't, it will look bad on them. It will look as if they had some evil intention or motives. And this will create untrustworthy toward them, making them look like selfish. Don't make people call you thieves.

Aug 01, 2014 10:00 PM





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