Crime & Justice

Treason trial of Cambodian opposition leader resumes after 2 years

Bangkok Desk, Jan 19 (EFE).- The treason trial of Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha resumed on Wednesday after a two-year delay due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

Kem Sokha appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the first time since March 2020.

The 68-year-old Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) co-founder was arrested in 2017 and is accused of conspiring with the United States to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

If convicted of the charges that are widely considered politically motivated, he faces up to 30 years in jail.

The politician spoke briefly outside his house to journalists, who reported that he hoped the court will drop the charges.

His daughter Monovithya Kem also reiterated in a tweet that the charges should be quashed.

“It’s overdue, we need to move forward,” she wrote.

The next court date was set for Jan. 25, according to the government-aligned Fresh News outlet, which added the hearing was observed by diplomats, activists and journalists.

Sopheap Chak, executive director at Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said she and others were not able to observe proceedings.

“Many including I myself, Adhoc, UN, and Australian Embassy representative, are put on reserve list meaning we cannot yet attend hearing as the court mentioned seats are limited,” she tweeted.

Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement that the “bogus, politically motivated charges should have never been brought against [Kem Sokha] in the first place.”

“This whole charade has been about preventing anyone from using the ballot box to meaningfully contest Hun Sen’s leadership,” he said.

Kem Sokha was arrested in September 2017. He spent two years under house arrest and was banned from politics and from leaving the country.

Two months after his arrest, the Supreme Court dissolved his popular CNRP ahead of the 2018 general election.

The party was the only threat to the rule of strongman Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party, which went on to take all seats in parliament.

Since then many senior party officials have fled into exile, and “hundreds of CNRP activists and supporters have been arbitrarily arrested, detained, and have faced politically motivated criminal charges,” Amnesty International said in a statement last January. EFE


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