Political commentator Kim Sok was sentenced to 18 months in prison this afternoon on charges of incitement and defamation for appearing to suggest that the ruling party was behind the killing of popular analyst Kem Ley.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Ky Rithy said Sok had attempted to malign Prime Minister Hun Sen – who filed the suit – and the ruling party, and therefore agreed with the charges.
“The court decides to sentence Kim Sok, 36, to 18 months and a fine of 8 million riel [about $2,000] to the state. It also orders Kim Sok to pay compensation of 800 million riel [around $200,000] to the CPP, with Samdech Hun Sen as the leader, and which is represented here by lawyer Ky Tech,” Rithy said.
On hearing the verdict, Kim Sok called the court a “puppet” and said that if he was sent to prison the premier should accompany him as well.
“If I said that I have to be in jail, Hun Sen should also be in Prey Sar like me, because he said he would kill 100 to 200 people. Why isn't he in prison?” he said, referring to charged remarks the prime minister made in the run-up to this June's commune elections.
In February, Sok was interviewed on Radio Free Asia, and seemed to allude to the Cambodian People’s Party’s involvement in the day-light gunning of Kem Ley. “All along they have tried to destroy the CNRP, they have killed people, and the latest person killed was Kem Ley,” he said during the interview.
After the comments were aired, the Prime Minister, through his lawyer Ky Tech, filed a complaint against Sok seeking half a million dollars in damages.
Days later, the commentator attempted to clarify his comments, saying that he meant to imply that a system had developed under the current government where people were killed and the murderers were never found – a statement the premier took as a doubling down, leading to a second lawsuit.
Sok’s trial, which began July 26, took a dramatic turn after a request to have the premier testify was rejected, leading to Sok storming out of the trial chamber then, upon being brought back, theatrically plugging his ears before the judge in an act of protest.