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Assembly calls on Sokha for response to tapes as ACU mulls probe

Srey Chamroeun, leader of a student group, talks to the media last week outside the National Assembly before filing a complaint against opposition deputy leader Kem Sokha with the ACU.
Srey Chamroeun, leader of a student group, talks to the media last week outside the National Assembly before filing a complaint against opposition deputy leader Kem Sokha with the ACU. Hong Menea

Assembly calls on Sokha for response to tapes as ACU mulls probe

CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha has been instructed by the National Assembly to respond to allegations of infidelity, while the Anti-Corruption Unit says it will decide today if it has a graft case against the opposition lawmaker based on leaked audio recordings purportedly of Sokha agreeing to invest in land and a business for a mistress.

In response to a complaint filed to the National Assembly on March 14 by a group of students that have been hounding Sokha to respond to the affair allegations, Leng Peng Long, secretary-general of the assembly, wrote a letter to the opposition lawmaker yesterday requesting that he address the students' concerns.

“Please [excellency], look into it and consider clarifying the request as soon as possible,” the letter reads.

Contacted yesterday, Peng Long reiterated that the assembly wants him to respond “as soon as possible”, but there would be no action taken if he did not.

Similarly, the ACU confirmed yesterday that they were meeting with the same group of students today to assess a corruption complaint they had lodged against Sokha.

“I am waiting on an explanation from the youth whether the complaint is true or not, then I will take action later,” said Om Yentieng, head of the ACU.

The student group’s leader, Srey Chamroeun, said he had based his corruption complaint on the leaked audio recordings purportedly of Sokha agreeing to give money to a mistress for land and business purchases. This purported cash giving, he said, demonstrates corruption, as politicians should not be able to accrue such wealth.

“He has no right to run any businesses, therefore we wonder where he got the money to buy a house and land up to thousands of dollars and have financial support for his mistress to run businesses,” Chamroeun said.

Asked by reporters yesterday if he was similarly concerned about wealth among the Cambodia People’s Party elite, many of whom are deeply involved in massive business ventures and own palatial mansions, he replied that “he had no evidence” of any corrupt activities among the ruling party.

San Chey, of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia, said yesterday that the ACU had to prioritise cases based on public importance.

“The ACU should consider what is of public interest and what is of private interest,” he said, adding that unverified audio files of someone lending money unconnected to political gain was far from in the public’s interest.

Since the leaked audio files first began to emerge last month, the CNRP has been determined not to let itself be drawn into the supposed scandal.

Despite being pressed for a response by the authorities through a formal investigation, by the student group who have been hounding Sokha at opposition rallies and by Prime Minister Hun Sen – who said last week he had photographic evidence of the affair – the CNRP has instead insisted they have more pressing political concerns to address.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann reiterated the party’s stance again yesterday.

“I don’t know. I am not interested in it,” he said.

Ou Virak, a political analyst and founder of the political think tank Future Forum, said yesterday that party faithful were now “scrambling” to appease the premier after his comments last week that Sokha had a political case to answer.

The politicisation of the case was predictable, he said, but was something that was more likely to backfire on the ruling party.

“They want to move the discussion away from all of Cambodia’s problems, in the hope that they can actually weaken the opposition and get the whole population preoccupied with these accusations,” Virak said.

“I think this is the wrong way to run a youth campaign, especially after the big [election] shock in 2013 and particularly in the age of Facebook,” he said.

Additional reporting by Daniel de Carteret

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