The Supreme Court has summonsed jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha to appear next month for a hearing related to the potential dissolution of the main opposition party, though his lawyers said yesterday that he will not attend, citing the “politically motivated” nature of the trial.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party is facing dissolution under recent controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which gave the Supreme Court broad authority to disband a party for “affecting the security of the state”, among other vaguely defined prohibitions.
After the Ministry of Interior filed a complaint against the party to the Supreme Court, the court then gave the CNRP a 20-day window to submit evidence on October 10. But the party has critiqued the case as farcical and said it would not participate in the legal process – a stance they stood by in response to the October 27 summons.
In a statement made public yesterday, the CNRP reiterated its innocence.
“CNRP would like to announce to the national and international public and competent authorities that the CNRP has not committed any illegal acts and the CNRP strongly opposes the attempt to dissolve the CNRP,” the party wrote. It goes on to call the trial “absolutely politically motivated”.
Lawyer Sam Sokhorng yesterday said the party hadn’t even appointed lawyers for the case because they view it as illegitimate.
“The CNRP does not make power of attorney to the lawyer group to defend that case,” he said. “They do not consider it a legal issue.”
Sokhorng said the CNRP would submit no evidence, and no party leaders, including the summonsed Sokha, would attend the trial.
“I don’t know how the Supreme Court will proceed,” he said.
Calls to CNRP lawmakers and representatives for confirmation yesterday went unanswered.
Chhin Malin, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said the court will simply proceed without them.
“They call us to enter [the court] so that we can defend ourselves against the complaint,” he said, speaking generally about the judicial process. “Once we reject those given rights and do not enter to protect ourselves, it means that we lose the benefits, and it seems like we accept the allegations.”
Malin went on to say that those who give up these rights are “the ones who lose the case”.
Yoeurng Sotheara, legal expert at election monitor Comfrel, said the CNRP likely feel they have no legitimate recourse to state their case.“In this case the CNRP feels they can do nothing to challenge,” he said.
Sotheara added that the “arbitrary” nature of the accusation – that the party has conspired in a treasonous plot – makes it difficult for the defendants to disprove.
“They don’t have any proof to submit . . . they don’t have anything to prove,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, said the CNRP’s refusal to participate in the legal process was a sign of its guilt.
“It is typical for a convict or perpetrator not to admit their mistakes. It’s an evasion of responsibility. They can say whatever they want to, but the court is working on the procedures legally,” Eysan said.