Five of the 26 former members of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Battambang province who were called before the provincial court was questioned by the prosecutor on Wednesday.
They are alleged to have violated the Supreme Court ruling that saw the dissolution of the former opposition party.
The questions centred on a Facebook Live video in support of CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy being made “acting president” of the party.
Sam Sokong, the lawyer representing the 26, said Sam Vong Dara, Tan Sa Morn, Roeun Keb, Phan Reth and Saig Bunmao were questioned on Wednesday.
Vong Dara, the former second deputy chief for O’Mal commune, said after questioning that he had been asked about a gathering at Sin Rozeth’s Khmer noodle shop that took place on December 5 last year.
Prominent former O’Char commune chief Rozeth is due to appear on Thursday.
“The prosecutor said we had organised a conference. He said that if we had live-streamed a video, it meant we had held a conference. But we did not organise a conference – it was only a simple gathering."
“Someone with a camera just made a live video. We did not know that the gathering would affect anything or be misconstrued as incitement. I don’t understand what is considered incitement and against the court’s ruling,” Vong Dara said.
He said the court did not ask questions on anything other than the gathering and the video.
Former Kdol Dounteav commune chief Roeun Keb said that he’d had a similar experience in court.
“I told the court that I went to the gathering on my own. Rozeth’s shop was often frequented by many people. After questioning, the prosecutor told me that as the Supreme Court had dissolved the CNRP, we did not have the right to do as we wanted because it affected national security. That’s what he told me,” Roeun Keb said.
Some 100 people gathered in front of the court in the morning and around 80 came in the afternoon in a show of support for those being questioned.
Around 10 police officers were stationed nearby, said In Kongchit, a coordinator at human rights NGO Licadho who went to monitor the case.
In Rozeth’s December 5 video clip, which lasted almost two hours, more than 10 people, including former Battambang provincial chiefs and deputy commune chiefs, announced they supported the appointing of Sam Rainsy as acting president of the CNRP until party president Kem Sokha was cleared of his treason charge.
They said they would not accept any statement Kem Sokha made on behalf of the party in the interim.
They also said they believed that Kem Sokha would be released, the CNRP would be reinstated and Sam Rainsy would return to the Kingdom.
A Battambang provincial police document that The Post received on Wednesday said all 26 were ordered to appear at the court on May 8, 9, 16, 17, and 21 following summonses by deputy prosecutor Keu Bunnara.
The document reveals the 26 are regarded as “illegal opposition members with duties who are very active at the grassroots level”.
Sam Sokong said that alleging the 26 had violated the Supreme Court ruling for merely showing their support for Sam Rainsy was unreasonable.
“The gathering was among the rights all citizens have, particularly the right to assembly, the right to express opinions and the right to join any political party.
“A gathering to talk about president Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha or the CNRP was not against the Supreme Court’s ruling because it made two decisions – to dissolve the CNRP and ban 118 of its members from political activity."
“But [the 26] are normal citizens and they did not criticise anyone or cause chaos or insecurity in the country,” Sam Sokong said.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said it depended on the court to charge them or not and on what grounds. This could only come after questioning had been completed, he said.