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Kem Sokha’s trial ‘not affected’ by change of address

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Kem Sokha in front of his home in Tuol Kork district in 2019. Heng Chivoan

Kem Sokha’s trial ‘not affected’ by change of address

Kem Sokha, former leader of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, put his house up for sale with an asking price of $2.4 million, while his trial on charges of treason has been stalled for a lengthy period due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sokha’s house is located in Tuol Kork in a neighbourhood that is considered a prime location to own real estate. The details regarding the sale were posted publicly by the real estate company Century 21 in their property listings on October 24.

According to the Century 21 listing, Sokha’s villa is 16 by 18m and it sits on a plot of land measuring 20 by 40m.

The asking price is $2.4 million, but eligible buyers can also take out a 20-year mortgage if they can make a down payment of 30 per cent of the total.

Long Kim Sour, director-general of Century 21 Advanced Property, said on November 2 that he had agreed to sell Sokha’s house at $2.4 million at his request like any other client who uses their services.

“The property owner wanted to sell this real estate asset through our company, so we put it up for sale for him because we are a company that provides real estate sales services. He owns the property so he can put it up for sale and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.

Asked whether he knows the specific reason why Sokha may have decided to sell his house, Kim Sour said Sokha did not say anything about it beyond just putting the house up for sale like any other client generally would.

“He signed an agreement for us to advertise his house according to our contract conditions. He had the necessary legal ownership documents and he hired us as his realtors to sell the house at the price he’s hoping to get,” he said.

According to Kim Sour, Sokha’s asking price is on the high-end even for that area and it may not be easy to sell it for that amount, especially during the pandemic, but his company is not worried and has no issues with selling properties owned by prominent or even controversial people as long as all of the legal requirements are met.

Sokha is charged with conspiring with foreign powers against the Cambodian government. His trial began in January last year but was soon delayed in March following the outbreak of Covid-19.

Chan Chen, one of Sokha’s defence lawyers, said on November 2 that he had no information on the sale or any knowledge regarding the reasons behind it.

Asked whether a person who is currently on trial who sells home – and therefore changes address – would thereby be violating the conditions of their bail, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said it would depend on the court and what the judge had ordered, but as far as he could remember Sokha’s bail would not be affected by the sale of his house in that it was primarily conditioned on his not fleeing abroad or involving himself in politics until the matter is resolved.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said he does not believe that Sokha is selling his house because he has fallen on hard times. Rather, he said, it is more of a political ploy to attract the public’s attention and build sympathy for him in order to receive clemency.

“I don’t think he’s selling the house for economic reasons, it’s merely political games ... even though he’s currently on trial and banned from politics,” he said.

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