HUMAN Rights Party leader Kem Sokha appeared at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday in connection with a 2006 complaint accusing him of breach of trust and the use of false documents during his time as president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.
The hearing, which lasted just over an hour, was closed to journalists, and questions remain about the details of the case. Kem Sokha denied the charges in the complaint, and demanded to see the evidence against him.
“I have never breached the trust of any individual, and I have never falsely signed the documents of any individual, so I have not done anything wrong,” he said. “I would like the plaintiffs who accused me to show documents.”
Kem Sokha was accused in 2006 of breach of trust by 16 of his former staff members, who said he had embezzled thousands of dollars in donor funds. Kem Sokha said yesterday that the International Republican Institute had investigated and found that CCHR had spent the funds properly.
A staffer at IRI was unable to confirm Kem Sokha’s claim. Current CCHR president Ou Virak said that he did not have any details about the IRI report.
No action had been taken in the case from the time the original complaint was filed until August of this year, when two of the plaintiffs, Chhim Phalvorn and Savin Sann, re-filed the complaint with new evidence.
Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said the fresh claim had reached the court on August 27, and that the court had asked Kem Sokha to appear for questioning on August 30.
Kem Sokha said yesterday that the new accusations consisted of his forgery of Chhim Phalvorn’s signature for payment of US$30 for a phone bill, but that he had created an internal commission at CCHR to settle the issue. He also said that the new complaint, brought by just two of the 16 original plaintiffs, showed that now only two of his former staff are suing him.
Chhim Phalvorn, a former deputy president of CCHR, maintained yesterday that the original 16 are still plaintiffs in the current dispute, and that the fresh complaint was merely new evidence in the case. He called on Kem Sokha to produce the IRI investigation results and relevant budget documents for the court. “We demand compensation because he cheated on the documents and falsified my signature,” Chhim Phalvorn said.
Sok Roeun would not clarify how many people were involved in the dispute, but he confirmed that just two of the original 16 plaintiffs had re-filed the complaint.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THOMAS MILLER