Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CNRP activists’ trial begins

CNRP activists’ trial begins

CNRP official Meach Sovannara waves to supporters at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court
CNRP official Meach Sovannara waves to supporters at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday morning where he attended the trial of five fellow opposition activists accused of leading an insurrection. Heng Chivoan

CNRP activists’ trial begins

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday began the trial of five opposition activists charged with inciting an insurrection last year following the 2013 general election.

Judges and prosecutors grilled the opposition activists, claiming they knowingly entered Freedom Park despite it being closed at the time, and asked why they joined protests that had already turned violent at that point. Six other activists, including opposition information head Meach Sovannara, had their court appearances postponed until May 26.

One of those questioned was Khin Chumroeun, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s youth wing, who relayed his version of the events that took place last July, when a group of 39 security personnel were beaten while attempting to forcibly disperse a rally.

Chumroeun claimed that he saw about 1,000 people gathered near the park and spotted security forces with weapons when he told his students to “retreat” from the protest site.

“I walked on Naga Bridge . . . I told [my people], because I saw guards holding bats,” he told the court. “A security guard led others to beat people on Naga Bridge . . . I am a citizen, and I did not lead any insurrection. I just asked [them] to open Freedom Park.”

But deputy prosecutor Keo Socheat lingered on Chumroeun’s use of the word “retreat” in his testimony, which, Socheat insinuated, established him as the protesters’ leader. Chumroeun maintained, however, that he used that word only because he was afraid of a possible clash between citizens and security forces.

Ouk Pich Samnang, a tuk-tuk driver who supported the CNRP during the protests, also accused irregular security personnel of using violence against protestors, saying that they were “the third hand” set up by the state.

Judge Lim Makaron asked Samnang if he had joined the rally on his own volition.

“I went to join [the protest] with my tuk-tuk and microphone to express [myself]. I went on my own will,” he said. “I went there to implore leaders, especially the head of the government, to [open] Freedom Park.”

Choung Choungy, a lawyer for some of the accused, told reporters outside the court that he believed his clients would be acquitted.

Ties between the CNRP and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have warmed significantly since the political upheaval that defined the period following the 2013 election, with CNRP head Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen propagating a newfound “culture of dialogue” to encourage bipartisanism and communication.

In addition to Chumroeun and Samnang, Oeur Narith, San Seyhak and Ke Khim also appeared for trial yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince injured, wife dies after accident

    THE wife of former First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Ouk Phalla, 39, died while the prince was “severely” injured following a road accident in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nub district on Sunday morning, officials said. Rananriddh, who is also the president of the Funcinpec

  • Bun Heang mocks US, threatens its citizens in scathing open letter

    After being hit with sanctions from the US Department of Treasury, Cambodian General Hing Bun Heang said he would retaliate against any US national who does not respect his country’s sovereignty, has ambitions to invade Cambodia or incites “traitors” in the Kingdom to do

  • Guards protest dismissals, reject claims of sharing naked photos of child

    Some 20 former security guards at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh protested on Tuesday against their dismissal. They accused their employers of falsely claiming they had viewed and shared child pornography from their mobile phones as grounds for their termination. In total, 32 personnel were dismissed

  • Ranariddh 'seriously injured', his wife dies in accident in Preah Sihanouk

    THE wife of former first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has died. Ouk Phalla succumbed to injuries sustained in a traffic accident on National Road 4 in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nub district this morning. She and the prince were immediately rushed to the Preah Sihanouk