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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Alleged mistress of Kem Sokha slandered for political gain: experts

Khom Chandaraty wipes away tears as she speaks at a press conference yesterday at the ADHOC headquarters in Phnom Penh.
Khom Chandaraty wipes away tears as she speaks at a press conference yesterday at the ADHOC headquarters in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Alleged mistress of Kem Sokha slandered for political gain: experts

The purported mistress of Kem Sokha, due in court today to face accusations she worked as a prostitute and lied to police, is having her name dragged through the mud for purely political ends and without any legal basis, legal and women’s experts said yesterday.

Khom Chandaraty, a 24-year-old salon worker who denies having an affair with the opposition deputy president – a client at her shop – yesterday broke down in tears as she spoke to reporters to discuss her case prior to today’s hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“My future is unclear, and my present is overwhelming,” said Chandaraty, the youngest of four children who hails from a small village in Kampong Cham’s Kampong Siem district.

“I cannot go anywhere freely; I cannot be happy with my family; all my relatives worry about me.”

Also known by her nickname Srey Mom, and her Facebook moniker Mon Srey, Chandaraty left her home village five years ago to work in Phnom Penh and save money for her own salon.

That dream is now in tatters, she says, after police named her as among the women featured in covertly recorded phone conversations, purportedly speaking intimately with Cambodia National Rescue Party acting president Kem Sokha.

Chandaraty, who denies it’s her voice on the recordings, has since fallen into the crosshairs of anti-terror police investigating a defamation suit filed by social media personality Thy Sovantha, who is referred to in the recordings, while Sokha is now being probed for corruption.

However, from the beginning, the tapes’ origins have remained uninvestigated, despite such unauthorised recordings almost certainly constituting a criminal act, according to legal expert Sok Sam Oeun.

“The law says only recordings permitted by an investigating judge for the purpose of an investigation can be legal, so any recording without that is illegal,” he said.

On the other hand, the accusations against Chandaraty, which she flatly denied yesterday, seem to have no basis in Cambodian law, according to Sam Oeun.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Seing Sok will quiz Chandaraty today over allegations, levelled by anti-terror police probing Sovantha’s defamation claim, that she worked as a prostitute and lied during an interview with its officers in March.

However, the law only punishes facilitation of prostitution, not the sex workers themselves, unless a solicitation is made in public.

“The law does not say [prostitution] is legal, but it doesn’t say it is illegal,” Sam Oen said. “[As for] perjury, they must be under oath and it must be done during the judicial investigation, not the police investigation, and they need clear evidence.”

The government, ruling Cambodian People’s Party representatives and even Prime Minister Hun Sen have all stridently denied engaging in a smear campaign, as alleged by the opposition.

But whoever is driving the case has political motives, not legal merits, in mind, said women’s rights advocate Thida Kus yesterday, suggesting they wanted to “break” Chandaraty in a bid to gain legal ammunition to bring down Kem Sokha.

“[They are] using her as an object for a political game, abusing the justice system, creating insecurity among the public [and a] feeling of vulnerability, and destroying trust in the rule of law,” she said.

CNRP lawmaker and women’s rights activist Mu Sochua agreed, slamming the use of “illegal tape recording” as evidence, particularly given “there’s no case in the first place”.

“This case of political persecution as in other cases will backfire as the public cannot be easily fooled,” she said via email.

Asked about the questionable legality of the accusations, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said the hearing was merely to clarify the police report.

“This warrant is not accusing her of this crime; we just call her to clarify about giving false testimony and prostitution in order to do more investigating in this case,” he said.

“If the prosecutor cannot find the evidence, they will close [the case] and stop the accusations.”



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Don Rennie's picture

Dear Shaun and Samean,

The Court should let this lady alone. She is not the problem.

Speaking during an interview can not be construed as lying. And, being a mistress for anyone is not a crime. Sex is sex; love is love. Both are different.

The real legal issues are: Were the audio tapes acquired illegally? Are the tapes authentic? Who is the source of the tapes? Whose voices are on the tapes?

Once the court determines these four issues, then the rule of law should be imposed and the Court should spring into action. Recording personal phone conversations without legal authority is a crime in Cambodia.

Presenting anything less in Court by a prosecutor shows weakness and incompetence on the part of the investigation and the Court.

Find the real criminal(s). The Court and anyone involved in this investigation should do their job. This lady is not a criminal. She is being played as a pawn by the CPP and the CPP is waging a losing battle. Maybe it is not her voice on the tapes.

The PM opened his mouth before saying he had evidence of a Kem Sokha affair. The PM wants to make the law when he speaks. To date, the weak and reasonably intolerant PM has not provided one piece of evidence linking this lady as a mistress to Kem Sokha.

Sex sells newspapers and TV coverage.


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