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Lawsuits still dog opposition leader

Keo Sophannary is carried off through a crowd of CNRP supporters
Keo Sophannary is carried off through a crowd of CNRP supporters in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Vireak Mai

Lawsuits still dog opposition leader

A woman who sued deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha in July last year seeking support for two children he allegedly adopted with her resurfaced at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after months of silence yesterday, attempting to confront the politician as he appeared for questioning, police said.

According to police officer Seng Sarith, Keo Sophannary – who maintains she was Sokha’s mistress – was blocked by Sokha’s bodyguards from making contact with him, but not from causing a scene as she and her mother shouted at the Cambodia National Rescue Party figure to assume responsibility for the children.

“They were pushed out and stopped by the bodyguards of Mr Kem Sokha while they were trying to meet with him, and asking him to take responsibility for their two adopted kids,” Sarith said, adding that “no violent act was made by Kem Sokha’s bodyguards”.

The CNRP has strenuously denied Sophannary’s allegations, calling her suit a ploy by the Cambodian People’s Party to discredit the opposition.

Whether Sophannary was affiliated with the CPP was never confirmed, though the party did take advantage of the situation by posting a scandalous – and potentially libelous – interview with her on the government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit website.

Sim Phally, Sophannary’s mother, shouted that Sokha “must take responsibility” for her daughter’s children as bodyguards held her back yesterday.

Sophannary, meanwhile, said that she had come to the court to ask it to speed up her complaint against Sokha.

S-21 prison survivor Chum Mey – who filed a defamation suit against Sokha around the same time as Sophannary’s case – made a similar request last month, one he echoed yesterday, citing his advanced age and ill health.

“If the court does not settle it and delays it like this, I am afraid that the documents will be lost, and the court cannot find truth and justice for me,” he said.

Court vice prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth said yesterday the investigation of Mey’s case has been delayed because Sokha twice failed to appear for questioning during the run-up to the July national elections.

“I still have not decided yet whether I will charge Mr Kem Sokha or not,” he said, adding that he had no knowledge of Sophannary’s case.

No word of progress in either case has emerged since the election, and neither court president Chiv Keng nor Sokha could be reached for comment yesterday.

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