A defence lawyer for the opposition on Wednesday defended their “legalism” after Prime Minister Hun Sen slammed them as “incompetent” and “unqualified”, telling them to listen to and analyse what he said before making statements about a “bet”.
Once again on Wednesday Hun Sen spoke to Fresh News and reiterated that the prime minister has no right to request a royal pardon for opposition leader Kem Sokha, who is on bail awaiting trial on treason charges, if he has not been convicted or a final verdict delivered.
He then slammed legal experts and a group of opposition lawyers as “ignorant” over the case.
“The group of legal experts and the lawyers who support a political gangster, you must listen to my speech clearly before making your ignorant interpretation."
“You are not only seriously legally incompetent but also unable to listen to and analyse what the prime minister has said,” Hun Sen said.
He was referring to a group of opposition lawyers who had issued a statement on Saturday, saying the “bet” between Hun Sen and Rainsy could “affect the procedure of the court” and claiming any “release” of their client or having the charges against him dropped came under the authority of the court and should not be the subject of a “bet”.
“The co-lawyers understand that using his Excellency Kem Sokha’s [situation for political gain] with [this] bet is making our nation suffer. We call on Cambodian politicians to remain moral as a good example for the next generation,” they had said.
Phan Chansak, one of Kem Sokha’s lawyers, said on Wednesday that the group of opposition lawyers is qualified to defend his client.
“We are lawyers. We are not unqualified like he said. The bet is a bet between politicians, we just defend [our client] based on the law. There is nothing to say regarding our legalism because we already have legalism to be lawyers,” he said.
“We reacted because it is being used as a bet between politicians,” he said.
Chansak said since the beginning, Sam Rainsy had never consulted with Kem Sokha’s lawyers and had announced the bet with Hun Sen on his own.
He said the bet affects the “procedure of the investigation”.
“Sam Rainsy has never discussed with the group of lawyers. This bet is a direct bet between Sam Rainsy and Samdech Hun Sen. Sam Rainsy never asked us what is going on with the case,” he said.
However, Hun Sen on Sunday said that accepting Rainsy’s offer did not violate the authority of the court and claimed Rainsy had “fallen in [his] own trap” over the bet.
But Rainsy claims Hun Sen had “fallen into my trap” and had revealed himself to be a “dictator who is using the courts as a political tool”.
On Tuesday leaders of Cambodian political parties also criticised Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy over the bet involving the “release” of Kem Sokha, describing it as “immoral” and “insulting” to Kem Sokha.
Political analyst Meas Nee said on Wednesday that since the beginning, the people who have most reacted to the bet are Sokha’s supporters. He said if the bet is continued, Sokha would remain under “house arrest”.
“This really affects the fate of Kem Sokha. It must be acknowledged that if you [Sam Rainsy] continue [in this way], the prime minister has no choice but to [keep] Kem Sokha detained in the house,” Nee said.
He said Sam Rainsy’s intent in betting with Hun Sen is to show that Hun Sen is in control of the court system, but the consequence would be damaging to the opposition party, rather than the government.
“It would cause a split between the supporters of Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha as we have seen in their reaction. It seems like they are moving away from each other.
“If they continue [like this], it would become a conflict for the party in the near future. It would be a big mistake and would damage Sam Rainsy.”