A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice has called on those arrested for involvement in Sam Rainsy’s “coup plot” to cooperate with investigating judges. So far, 143 others have absolved themselves of criminal charges by doing so.
As of Sunday, authorities had arrested 45 people after they were charged with “plotting” by the courts. Police are currently on the lookout for another 55 after the courts issued arrest warrants for them.
At the same time, the 143 had confessed to police across the country regarding their involvement in the plot, National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun told The Post on Tuesday.
Around 230 people have been charged since mid-September, when the Ministry of Justice alerted the public to Rainsy’s return on November 9 as being a part of a coup plot.
The warning came after the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) claimed to have a budget in place for defecting soldiers and called on people to rise up and arrest Prime Minister Hun Sen.
CNRP members have said that 57 activists have been arrested since the beginning of this year on “incitement” and “plotting” charges.
As of Monday, the last person to have confessed to authorities was Sam Vuthy, former councillor of Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district, who had previously been jailed for his involvement in a 2014 case of “insurrection” at the former Freedom Park in the capital.
He was also charged recently by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with “plotting”, and surrendered to Phnom Penh police to confess, according to the Information Department at the Ministry of National Defence.
In front of police, Vuthy said he had gone for treatment in Thailand and met with Morn Phalla, a former CNRP senior official who told him to assemble people to welcome Rainsy on November 9.
However, he said he had refused to carry out Phalla’s instructions as he was afraid of being arrested again.
“Sam Rainsy and some others have been charged with treason, so I didn’t follow the instructions given because I was scared of having more problems. I have been imprisoned twice already and no one came to see me. When I was released, I faced further discrimination,” Vuthy told the police.
Attorney Sam Sokong said on Tuesday that he had been asked to defend more than 30 of the 45 arrested, while the others were being defended by lawyers Choung Choungy, Ket Khy and Hem Socheat.
Sokong said he would start going to the different courts from Thursday as his clients would be facing investigating judges to have their charges clarified.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin said those who had been arrested still had the chance to get out of jail should they confess all to the investigating judges.
“The law encourages those involved in plotting to make a confession and cooperate with the authorities at all levels of the court procedure, including while they are under arrest by police.
“Article 454 of the Criminal Code states that those who confess can be freed from the charges and avoid trial.
“At the stage with the investigating judges, the charged persons are also encouraged to cooperate with authorities to receive clemency. The investigating judges can show them leniency by granting bail.
“Many people who were charged and arrested but confessed have been granted bail by investigating judges,” Malin said.
Rainsy has claimed that he would return with international escorts and Cambodians living abroad, with local supporters welcoming him home en masse.
However, Kong Korm, the former president of the now-defunct Sam Rainsy Party, said this was “just air”.
“[Rainsy coming] with foreigners and Cambodians living abroad, with supporters at home greeting him like water breaking a dam – all of this is just air.
“On November 9, there will be no foreigners, there will especially not be Cambodians ignorant enough to opt for a broken pot over ambok [flattened rice],” Korm wrote on Facebook on Monday.
Only regular elections every five years could ensure democracy, respect for human rights and sustainable development for Cambodia, he stressed.