The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 28 resumed the trial against 61 people including former opposition leader Sam Rainsy on charges of plotting and incitement to cause social chaos.
But only two defendants, both of whom have not been placed in pre-trial detentions, appeared at the hearing.
Seven defence lawyers were present including Sam Sokong and Lor Chunthy, and five other lawyers who have been assigned by the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) to defend those who did not have a lawyer.
The case stemmed from Rainsy’s plan to return to Cambodia on November 9, 2019, to arrest Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Prum Rath, one of the two defendants, said at the hearing that he was a Cambodian migrant worker in South Korea and was later elected as deputy head of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) youth wing based in South Korea.
Rath claimed, however, that he was not active in politics because he was busy with his work at a Korean factory and only occasionally took part in CNRP meetings there. He returned to Cambodia in August 2019 when his work contract ended.
“When I was in Korea, my [youth wing] team worked independently. We wanted to see respects for human right in Cambodia. When I returned to Cambodia, I did not talk politics; I just focused on working to feed my parents,” he said.
But according to a document read in court, Rath had written a Facebook post saying: “We are youths in Korea, Australia, Canada, and Finland. We will return to our country.
“No one seems to care much about our society; they only care about their personal interests, unlike [youths] in other countries. Let’s join hands for the sake of democracy! Let’s advocate and devote ourselves [to this cause]! All Khmer people, let’s stand up to rescue our country!”
Rath told the court that what he wrote was just his personal opinion, claiming he never wrote anything else after arriving in Cambodia and also refrained from involving with the former CNRP.
Chea Yamorn, another defendant who was former CNRP chief in Boeung Tumpun II commune, declined to talk during the hearing and left it to his lawyer instead.
Yamorn later told reporters outside the courtroom that he reserved his rights to remain silent because he did not expect justice from the trial, which he said was politically motivated.
“Only political solution can help clear me of this treason charge. I am a Cambodian, I cannot commit any activities that betray my nation,” Yamorn said.
Presiding Judge Ros Piseth adjourned the hearing and set February 18 as the date to resume trial.