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Sokha: I only learned about rights, democracy

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Kem Sokha on Thursday continued to reject claims that he had conspired with a foreign power to topple the government through a colour revolution. Heng Chivoan

Sokha: I only learned about rights, democracy

Kem Sokha on Thursday continued to reject claims that he had conspired with a foreign power to topple the government through a colour revolution.

The former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was giving evidence as his treason trial entered day four. The trial centred around speeches he made to his supporters in Australia in a two-minute video clip, which was used as evidence to accuse him of treason.

Sokha is charged with ‘conspiracy with a foreign power’ and faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

He said during the trial that as a politician, he always adhered to the non-violence principle in his push to change the government in the Kingdom.

He only learned about human rights and theories about democracy from US experts, he said, and never learnt to lead a revolution or military strategies.

“Those experts, as I said, were professors. They did not teach us to violate human rights. They only taught us the principle of human rights and democracy. I learned about democracy, and I never learned about anything related to a revolution or military affairs,” he said.

He said the change of leadership in the past had led to bloodshed. To avoid it, he said, he had travelled throughout the country to educate people on human rights and to encourage them to express opinions, including a change of leadership through elections.

“I witnessed conflicts in Cambodia. The change of leadership would cause bloodshed if it’s not through the people’s will. That’s why I went around to preach human rights, not to topple the government through a coup,” he stressed.

During the trial, government lawyers questioned Sokha about his activities from 1993 to 2007, and after he formed the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) during the period. They also questioned why he went to Australia to make the speech.

Sokha reiterated that he went to Australia to deliver political speeches to his supporters. He said some supporters were not happy that CNRP lawmakers had negotiated with the Cambodian People’s Party after the 2013 election.

He told the court that Cambodians living in the US urged him to change the Cambodian leader following what Serbia and Yugoslavia had done. But he strongly rejected the idea because doing that would conflict with his intentions.

“I don’t want to follow Yugoslavia because I don’t want to bang my head against the rock,” he said.

Pheng Heng, one of Sokha’s defence lawyers, asked the trial chamber to stop questioning his client on the content of the hour-long video clip. He requested the court to focus on the crime which his client had allegedly committed and to identify who the victims are.

However, the trial chamber rejected the request, saying the questioning on the video should be allowed as agreed by both parties. The prosecutor said debating on the video clip was important for the case.

Judge Koy Sao postponed the hearing by noon. The trial would resume next Wednesday.

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