Cash offered to the mother of Kem Sokha’s purported mistress by an opposition commune councillor was intended to help the woman’s family amid the ongoing scandal but was never delivered, the local official’s wife said yesterday.
Sam Rainsy Party member Seang Chet, a commune chief in Kampong Cham, was detained on Sunday by the Anti-Corruption Unit after Sokha’s purported mistress, Khom Chandaraty, complained she had been offered $500 to lie about her relationship with the CNRP leader.
Her complaint, in which she also accused several members of civil society of instructing her to lie to authorities, followed an abrupt U-turn by Chandaraty, who had previously strenuously denied she was Sokha’s lover.
Given that Chandaraty, aka Srey Mom, was being probed by police for “prostitution” and giving false testimony, some, including opposition leader Sam Rainsy, have suggested she was leaned on to change her story.
Authorities, however, have denied this. ACU chief Om Yentieng said his interview with Chet made him “80 per cent” sure a crime had transpired, though many have suggested the scandal is being exploited for political gain.
Yesterday, Chet’s wife, Sreng Khoeun, 43, said the couple had received cash from CNRP supporters abroad, via opposition lawmaker Mao Monivann, to distribute to the family, but Chandaraty’s mother had refused the money.
“I went to call Srey Mom’s mother to my home to receive the money,” Khoeun said. “My husband asked her whether she would take the money or not because she was poor, but she declined, saying she was already having problems and did not want to have further problems.”
Speaking yesterday, Monivann denied Chandaraty’s assertion that the money – sent from supporters in New Zealand – had strings attached. “I gave it to the commune chief so he could give it to the mother of Srey Mom,” he said, calling the money “humanitarian aid”.
“It was not the party’s money, it was from generous people who sent it via a party official; it was not money to shut [Srey Mom’s] mouth.”
Chet’s friend Sab Kosal, who was with the local official when ACU officials “restrained him and placed him in a car”, said the money was given to the commune chief on April 10, and Chandaraty’s mother refused it the next day.
He called for Chet’s release. “He works hard and provides good services for people,” he said.