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‘Court to decide Kem Sokha fate’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Opposition leader Kem Sokha with his mother Sao Nget after he was released from prison in September this year. He has been under home detention ever since. CHHEA BUNNARITH/AFP

‘Court to decide Kem Sokha fate’

A senior government official said on Sunday that former opposition party leader Kem Sokha, who is currently under home detention on “treason” charges, would not receive a Royal pardon while his court case is ongoing.

The remarks followed recent claims by Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM), that mounting international pressure would soon force the government to drop all charges against Sokha, the former president of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post on Sunday that the decision to release Sokha rests with the court, not the government. He said the international community also has no power to force the court to give in to their demands.

“He [Rainsy] is simply talking trash. For years, his talk never bore fruit. He never values the Kingdom’s laws and Constitution at all,” Siphan said.

He said only Prime Minister Hun Sen can request a Royal pardon or a reduction of sentence.

“His legal case is still proceeding and it's not even halfway yet. Kem Sokha is still a suspect under the court's supervision. So nothing fruitful would come out before the court's decision,” he said.

On his Facebook page late last week, Rainsy lauded Sokha's firm political stance and said the government would be forced to release him and reinstate the CNRP.

“Under international pressure, Hun Sen will soon be forced to release CNRP president Kem Sokha from house arrest and drop all charges against him."

“The Phnom Penh regime's refusal to allow high-ranking international officials [such as the UN Special Rapporteur, Inter-Parliamentary Union president, Members of Parliament and ministers from friendly governments] to visit Kem Sokha only puts Hun Sen in a more and more untenable position,” Rainsy claimed.

On October 18, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which counts more than 170 assemblies worldwide as members, issued a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Sokha and the reinstatement of the CRNP.

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long on Wednesday threatened unspecified “action” against the IPU, saying the body had no rights to violate Cambodian sovereignty.

The government also hit back at the IPU on October 26, threatening to withdraw from the body if there was further “interference”. Siphan said at the time that no country could violate the Kingdom’s laws.

“We cannot [consider] any statement or pressure which orders Cambodia to violate or annul the verdict of the Supreme Court because we believed Cambodia is in a state of strengthening its rule of law,” he said.

Sokha's lawyer Peng Heng on Sunday appealed for his release, arguing that the court has so far found no evidence linking his client to the “treason” charges.

“I am reviewing the evidence and facts. I request the court drop all charges against Kem Sokha because there is not enough evidence to charge my client,” Heng said.

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