The legal team of Kem Sokha, the president of the former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on Wednesday complained of being attacked by supporters of Sam Rainsy, his fellow party co-founder.
Sokha’s defence lawyers were this week accused by Facebook users of “working for Hun Sen” after offering their opinion regarding a bet between Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen on the legal fate of their client.
Sokha is on bail awaiting trial for treason, and in November, his fellow CNRP co-founder Rainsy offered Hun Sen a bet that Sokha would have the charge dropped by March 3.
Rainsy proposed that their respective forfeits be that he would return to Cambodia to face court action or the prime minister would step down should either one lose.
He based his prediction on the legal grounds that a person cannot remain charged for longer than 18 months without the case reaching trial under Cambodian law. March 3 will bring that 18-month period to an end.
Sokha has been out on bail under court supervision since September 10 last year.
Three of Sokha’s four defence lawyers on Monday criticised Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved CNRP, for suggesting on Saturday that he would not return to the Kingdom to face legal proceedings, as his forfeit stipulated.
Rainsy currently lives in France to escape a slew of court charges and sentencing.
Meng Sopheary, one of Sokha’s four defence lawyers, said she wasn’t hired by anyone when she posted opinions as to the bet on Facebook. She said she did so due to the “unbearable hurt” she felt after being insulted and discredited by Rainsy’s supporters.
Earlier this week, a Facebook user named Ath Vichet posted Sopheary’s photos with text saying: “Meng Sopheary, Kem Sokha’s lawyer who works for Hun Sen. If he is surrounded by such people, how can President [of the CNRP] Kem Sokha speak?”
Ath Vichet also attacked another of Sokha’s lawyers Phan Chansak saying: “What [he is] doing every day is trying to split Sam Rainsy from Kem Sokha according to the wishes of Hun Sen. So his activities are not only that of a paid lawyer, but a commentator and spokesperson on the CNRP for Hun Sen.”
Sopheary said she had put up with such attacks for a long time now but she had had enough.
“What have I done to [Rainsy supporters]? Everything I wrote did not [attack] Sam Rainsy."
“I targeted all people who have the intention to find a political solution, to have sympathy with people, with Kem Sokha, who was charged and lost freedom in an unjust way. I believe all sides know he is innocent and did not commit any wrongdoing,” she said, requesting Rainsy supporters stop slandering, insulting and smearing Sokha’s lawyers.
Writing on Facebook on Monday, Sopheary questioned why Rainsy had laid the wager. She said Sokha’s lawyers were confident from the beginning that Rainsy would lose the bet, which pushed them to write a letter appealing for its cancellation.
She said if the bet had been abandoned then, Rainsy would have kept his honour and avoided becoming known as a “man who failed to keep his promises”.
“Kem Sokha understands our difficulties and challenges that we as his lawyers face. He told us to be tolerant no matter if we are insulted and unfairly accused, and to continue the mission to defend his case,” she said.
She said if she or the other lawyers representing Sokha acted against their client, he had the right to replace them any time.
“I know where I walk is like a path full of thorns and poisonous creatures. So it is normal that we have to face the thorns and attacks by animals. But we stand firm to go forward,” she said.
Fellow Sokha lawyer Phan Chansak also questioned on Facebook on Wednesday why Rainsy and his supporters had accused him of working for the benefit of Hun Sen.