The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday said a recent comment by US Ambassador Patrick Murphy about Kem Sokha’s trial showed disregard for Cambodian sovereignty.
The ministry said Murphy’s comment made after the latest hearing in the Sokha case showed a lack of diplomacy and regard for the Kingdom’s autonomy.
“Such expression of opinion violates Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter, which states that all diplomats, whether from big or small countries, must fully respect each other,” the statement said.
The ministry’s statement referred to Murphy’s comment on March 12, after he attended the trial of Kem Sokha, who has been charged with conspiring with a foreign power to topple the government.
Murphy who left the hearing before a break was called, told reporters outside the court: “We are troubled to see that the prosecutors have introduced a fabricated conspiracy theory involving the US.
“The US has distributed almost $3 billion in recent decades in assistance to Cambodia, including transparent assistance to strengthen institutions and political parties in line with the Cambodian Constitution.”
Murphy said the US fully respects Cambodian sovereignty, but that it also wants to see a society that tolerates dissenting views, which is a crucial part of democracy.
The ministry said Murphy’s comment runs contrary to the commitment made during the countries’ 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations to strengthen ties and understand and respect each other.
The ministry also stressed that the Cambodian judiciary was independent of the government.
Shortly after Murphy’s comment, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a statement to defend its actions.
“In the case involving Kem Sokha, who has been charged with conspiring with a foreign power under Article 443 of the Criminal Code of the Kingdom, the prosecutor treated Sokha according to the law of Cambodia,” it said.
Over the last seven weeks, Sokha has been questioned by the court over his relationship with organisations such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).
Political Analyst Em Sovannara said the ambassador’s intention was simply to clarify the nature of the relation between the US and Cambodia.
“Kem Sokha is being charged with conspiring with a foreigner power – the US.
The US has the right to comment on this to improve relations between the two countries,” he said.
However, the same day Murphy made his comments, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said: “No one accuses the US of being behind Sokha, not even the government.
“The case is still in the hands of the court. Kem Sokha is the one that involved the US.”