The infidelity scandal surrounding deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha has become an issue of political importance, Prime Minister Hun Sen insinuated yesterday, adding that he must “protect the honour” of the Cambodian People’s Party against online accusations that they are behind the leaked allegations of affairs.
In practically the same breath, however, the premier went on to warn that he had photographic evidence substantiating the claims, telling attendees at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh that Facebook commentary over the saga had dragged it from a private case of defamation into the public sphere.
“Whether at the Bangkok or the Phnom Penh airport, people’s pictures are taken when going in and out,” he said in a veiled warning to Sokha, whom he did not mention by name. “They can take people’s pictures at any hotel. They have the equipment to capture an image so you cannot move.”
The prime minister said that a strategy of not responding to accusations may have worked in the past, but it was now the “21st century” and a “sex scandal cannot be hidden”.
Hun Sen likened the Sokha case to that of former US President Bill Clinton, who was plagued by revelations of extramarital affairs. Given the public outcry, the government was now “forced to act”, he warned, without detailing what that might involve.
Leaked audio recordings purported to be of Sokha and an alleged mistress first began to emerge online nearly three weeks ago, but their provenance has raised legal questions over how the audio was obtained, as well as speculation as to who might be behind the leaks.
A formal investigation was launched by the anti-terror police after social media celebrity Thy Sovantha filed a defamation suit seeking to identify those responsible for disparaging comments made about her on the leaked audio files.
A hairdresser named Khom Chandaraty, who the authorities believe to be the alleged mistress known as “Mon Srey”, was interrogated by authorities on March 12. Her lawyer again declined to give details on the progress of the case yesterday.
Contacted yesterday, Y Sok Khy, the head of the anti-terrorism department, said that a decision on summonsing Sokha had not yet been made.
“The investigation is continuing; we have not yet decided whether or not he will be summonsed for questioning,” he said, declining to discuss the progress of the investigation.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party have refused be drawn into the saga and have instead asserted that they have a more important political agenda to address.
“It is nonsense,” opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said yesterday, declining to comment any further.
Yet despite the politicisation of the case, analysts have said that it will have little bearing in the minds of voters.
“I don’t think the public is surprised or cares much; infidelity is, unfortunately, common among men of means and power,” said Ear Sophal, an associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
“I’m not saying it’s right; it’s part of the impunity disease that afflicts Cambodia,” he said via email.
Meanwhile, Srey Chamroeun, leader of a group of students that have followed Sokha to CNRP rallies demanding he respond to the allegations, announced on Facebook yesterday that a group of students would file a complaint to the Anti-Corruption Unit today alleging that Sokha had purchased property for his mistress through corrupt means.