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Kem Sokha says his use of the word ‘change’ has been misinterpreted

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Kem Sokha left the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after his hearing on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

Kem Sokha says his use of the word ‘change’ has been misinterpreted

At Kem Sokha’s trial on Thursday, the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said the allegation against him for “conspiring with a foreign power” could have been due to a misinterpretation of his use of the word “change”.

At the start of the trial, defence lawyer Ang Udom asked Sokha to explain what he meant by “change”, which he used when he led the Human Rights Party from 2007 to 2012.

“The charges against me could have been due to confusion. When I said ‘change’, I meant change through an election. I was referring to a positive change. I vow that I will never resort to violence or revolution in my lifetime,” said Sokha.

A 2012 interview between Sokha and the press was also played during the trial. In the clip, Sokha said he had travelled to the communities with the intent of educating the people about human rights and changing the Kingdom’s leadership in a democratic way.

The trial touched on many aspects within the period of 2007 to 2012.

Judge Seng Leang asked Sokha his reason for using “human rights” in naming his NGO, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, and party, the Human Rights Party.

In response, Sokha said he wanted the people to understand and use their rights. He said the party’s bylaws were written by Cambodians and without the help of any foreign power.

Pheng Heng, a member of Sokha’s defence team, said he did not understand why the judge and prosecutor pressed Sokha on his use of the phrase.

Meanwhile, civil party lawyer Ly Chantola grilled Sokha on the source of the party’s funds which it used during the 2012 commune elections.

Chantola said the expense looked higher than the party’s income as revealed in a financial report he received.

However, Sokha said he had not hidden anything, adding that they could confirm it with the Ministry of Interior.

Udom used the session to present photographs of Sokha’s meetings with then-Chinese President Hu Jintao, high-ranking Japanese officials and British diplomats during his time as a lawmaker and senator.

However, government lawyer Ky Tech said after the trial ended for the day that the pictures do nothing to relieve the burden on Sokha.

“I can say that those photographs have no value. They show him sitting with a foreign power. They only showed photos of [Sokha] shaking hands with guests in order to prove that he did not meet with any foreign state leader other than British diplomats, the former Chinese president and Japanese officials,” said Tech.

Asked if he had photographs showing Sokha meeting with foreign officials, Tech said he had a strategy and would use it at the right time.

The hearing will resume next Wednesday and focus once more on what Sokha meant with “change”.

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