The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summonsed Kem Sokha for a second time, he and a court official said yesterday.
The embattled opposition leader has been called in for questioning in response to a defamation lawsuit filed last month by S-21 survivor and victims’ association president Chum Mey, who made the complaint with three other survivors. The lawsuit came shortly after the government released an audio clip in which Sokha can be heard saying that the notorious Khmer Rouge prison was staged by the Vietnamese – audio he quickly repudiated and claimed had been doctored by the government.
Deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpisith said yesterday that he summonsed Sokha to appear on July 5. Asked whether he would ask the court to issue a writ forcing him to appear or face arrest – an option open to the court when someone fails to show twice – Chanpisith declined to comment.
“It is his right to come or not come. It is his business,” he said.
Sokha didn’t appear at court on Thursday for the first summons, saying he was focusing on the campaign, which launched that day.
Yesterday he told the Post he had no intention to appear come Friday.
“I do not have time. I am focusing on an election campaign. The court also knows that this is the election campaign time, therefore, what intention do they have in summonsing me like that?” he asked.
His lawyer and rights monitors said yesterday that the answer to that question was obviously political.
“It’s to disturb his election campaigning,” said Sokha’s attorney, Choung Choungy.
While summonses typically give the respondent two weeks’ notice, both of those issued to Sokha have allotted far less time.
Choungy said he was petitioning the court for a delay, citing Sokha’s campaign activity.
Hang Puthea, executive director of the election monitoring organisation Nicfec, said there was little reason for the court to ignore such a request and the fact that it likely wouldn’t suggested the political underpinnings of the trial.
“I think this case could have been summonsed after the election. It would not matter. Such a summonsing [now] affects his election campaign,” he said.