Cambodian Court Orders Testimony in Kem Sokha Trial From ‘Witness’ Who Never Spoke With Him

A court docket in Cambodia’s capital on Wednesday issued a summons requesting {that a} former elected official with the nation’s banned opposition in Banteay Meanchey province give testimony subsequent week on the treason trial of his get together’s president, Kem Sokha, regardless of by no means having spoken with him.

Police in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet commune delivered the summons from Phnom Penh Municipal Courtroom Deputy Prosecutor Vong Sunvisoth calling on Leng Vibol to seem at Kem Sokha’s trial on Jan. 15, the previous Cambodia Nationwide Rescue Social gathering (CNRP) commune chief informed RFA’s Khmer Service.

Leng Vibol expressed shock over having been summoned as a witness within the trial, however informed RFA’s Khmer Service he’ll take part, regardless of by no means having held a dialogue with Kem Sokha.

“I really like info, and I’d by no means enable myself to be compelled to say one thing that isn’t true,” he mentioned.

“If I don’t take part within the trial, it would seem as if I’ve dedicated a criminal offense.”

Kem Sokha was arrested in September 2017 and charged with treason over a video recorded 4 yr earlier by which he discusses a method to win energy on the poll field with the assistance of U.S. specialists. If convicted, he may withstand 30 years in jail.

Two months after Kem Sokha’s arrest, Cambodia’s Supreme Courtroom dissolved the CNRP for its position within the alleged plot and banned 118 of its officers from political actions.

The transfer to dissolve the CNRP was a part of a wider crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen on the political opposition, NGOs, and the impartial media that paved the best way for his ruling Cambodian Folks’s Social gathering (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament within the nation’s July 2018 normal election.

For the reason that election, authorities have detained a number of CNRP activists over allegations of “treason” and restricted or surveilled others, whereas showing to show a blind eye to bodily assaults in opposition to get together supporters by unknown assailants believed to be related to the CPP.

Kem Sokha has maintained his innocence since his arrest, which noticed him spend greater than a yr in pre-trial detention earlier than he was moved to strict home arrest, and his authorized crew has mentioned prosecutors lack the proof to convict him.

Following the 2018 poll, Western nations have threatened sanctions in opposition to Hun Sen’s authorities over his rollbacks of democratic freedoms in Cambodia, calling for the reinstatement of the CNRP and for authorities to drop expenses in opposition to Kem Sokha.

Seoung Sen Karona, a spokesman for native human rights group Adhoc, mentioned Wednesday he finds it unusual that the court docket summoned a witness who had by no means communicated with Kem Sokha, including that such a witness could be unable to offer the CNRP chief with justice.

“The home and worldwide communities know that Kem Sokha’s trial relies on a politically motivated case that got here out of a political dispute,” he mentioned.

Such a dispute needs to be dealt with via political discourse, relatively than within the courts, he mentioned.

Ignoring the West

Leng Vibol’s summons got here a day after Hun Sen informed an viewers of tens of hundreds assembled in Phnom Penh to mark the 41st Victory Over Genocide Day that he is not going to adjust to suggestions by Western governments on learn how to run a democracy in Cambodia, saying that to take action would forestall him from upholding home legislation.

“There are not any official claims raised by the worldwide neighborhood about the necessity to restore democracy and human rights in Cambodia,” he mentioned on the occasion, held to commemorate the tip of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

“I hope the worldwide neighborhood will rethink based mostly on Cambodia’s optimistic developments and respect the need for Cambodians to pursue progress acceptable to our tradition, society and structure.”

Hun Sen lauded what he mentioned has been a metamorphosis underneath his management of Cambodia from a nation torn aside by the Khmer Rouge to at least one having fun with peace, stability, democracy, improvement, and the rule of legislation.

Following Hun Sen’s feedback, political analyst Kim Sok informed RFA that the West is true to name on Cambodia’s authorities to respect home and worldwide legislation, including that Hun Sen’s model of democracy is “faux” and “in violation of the nation’s structure.”

Social analyst Meas Nee informed RFA that Cambodians usually are not satisfied that Cambodia has achieved peace underneath Hun Sen’s greater than three a long time in energy.

“We, as residents, can’t settle for that we’re having fun with peace,” he mentioned. “The federal government could make such claims, however it’s finally as much as the folks to resolve.”

Final week, Hun Sen promoted a brand new “Thank You Peace” slogan marketing campaign, which he mentioned doesn’t oppose any group and demonstrates how stability has allowed Cambodia to develop underneath his 35-year rule.

“All folks want peace, apart from terrorists who search to destroy it,” he mentioned on the time, in a thinly veiled reference to supporters of the CNRP, a number of of whom have been detained in latest months amid accusations that they search to overthrow his authorities.

Analysts, nevertheless, have mentioned Hun Sen’s marketing campaign seeks to “divert public consideration” whereas he continues to “abuse his energy and the structure” for his private pursuits.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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