A US-based Cambodian dissident, who has been labelled a terrorist by the government, was tried in absentia by Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday over allegations he incited a military coup.
Judge Top Chhunheng said Sourn Serey Ratha, leader of the Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM), is accused of calling on the country’s armed forces to turn their weapons on Prime Minister Hun Sen in a Facebook post dated August 14, 2013. He is charged with “incitement to commit a crime”, Chhunheng said.
The message, which was read to the court, was titled “The Nonviolent Rose for Change”.
“Every heroic soldier! Turn your guns against the despot and sacrifice your life to protect the people who have the same Khmer blood because Cambodian troops and Cambodian people are Khmer and we have to protect each other,” it said.
During yesterday’s hearing, the court questioned six witnesses, including two police officers and four people – Tut Chan Panha, Sok Dalis, Hy Borin and Ly Linpheng – who were charged last August with incitement and briefly detained for allegedly producing and distributing materials encouraging a military coup under the orders of Serey Ratha.
The four witnesses said they did not know Serey Ratha and were only in contact with him through Facebook, when they wanted to buy flowers to distribute to military personnel.
Deputy prosecutor Meas Chan Piseth called for more severe charges for Serey Ratha.
“I would like to ask the court to transfer this case to the investigating judge to re-investigate under the additional charge of the act of traitory and for him to be strongly punished.”
Defence lawyer Sok Sam Oeun said Serey Ratha’s message was not intended to incite any violence.
Serey Ratha could not be reached for comment.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY