Four senior rights group staffers and a National Election Committee official who presented themselves for questioning at Anti-Corruption Unit headquarters over accusations they directed salon worker Khom Chandaraty to deny an alleged affair with CNRP acting president Kem Sokha have been taken into custody.
The five – Adhoc staffers Lem Mony, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Nay Vanda, and NEC deputy secretary-general and former Adhoc official Ny Chakrya – were detained at about 8pm Thursday night and are legally required to be produced in court within 48 hours of being taken into custody.
Adhoc president Thun Saray, accompanied by two lawyers, on Friday morning attempted to meet his four staffers but was denied by ACU chief Om Yentieng, who asked the group not to “bother and waste his time.”
“You are a lawyer, so why do not you know that this is the judicial procedure,” he said, speaking to one of the Adhoc lawyers amid a group of reporters. “This is your excuse to waste my time.”
Turning to Saray, Yentieng said he was attempting to “limit and keep this case small” but if pushed or pressured by the group, he would increase the investigation’s scope.
“I will send only the first batch of evidence to the court, but if you try to fight back, then we will send the second and we also have a third,” he said.
Yentieng refused to divulge the exact nature of the charges against the five, telling reporters only that they are related to Article 40 of the Anti-Corruption Law, which deals with obstruction or interference offenses in the work of the body.
Referring to a purported audio recording between Sokha and a Sam Rainsy Party commune chief in Kampong Cham, Yentieng backed the Wednesday jailing of the chief, Seang Chet.
“I have known about this recording for a long time,” he said.
Saray could not be reached after the meeting with Yentieng. However, prior to the meeting, he said the rights group would provide five lawyers to represent its staffers and questioned the reasons why they were being detained.
“As I know, my staff have followed the proper procedures and principles and their questioning makes it seem like they are suspects in a very serious crime, Saray told reporters, before entering the ACU.
As Saray exited the ACU offices, Yentieng invited reporters for a briefing, confirming the detention of the five, and adding that women’s rights activist Thida Kus had been deemed uninvolved.
However, Sally Soun, an employee with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who was summonsed but failed to appear at the ACU offices, is facing possible arrest, he said.
“When we summonsed him [Soun] the first time, he did not come,” he said. “The second time it will be an arrest...there must be an arrest.”
Khan Keomono, a temporary spokesperson for the NEC, declined to comment on Chakrya’s detention, with Sam Sokong, who was also the lawyer for Seang Chet, confirming that he would represent the NEC official but refused to reveal any further details of the case.
Political commentator and founder of the Future Forum Think Tank Ou Virak said that as the scope of the investigation widens to include civil society groups as well, it only highlights the government’s notion that the opposition and NGOs are trying to overthrow the government and treating them as one.
“I think that the government thinks they are the same and are putting them in the same basket,” he said.
Additional reporting by Ananth Baliga