Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP spokesman and former Kem Sokha colleague questioned

CPP spokesman and former Kem Sokha colleague questioned

CPP spokesman Chhim Phal Virun speaks to reporters today after being questioned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in relation to former opposition leader Kem Sokha's "treason" case. Pha Lina
CPP spokesman Chhim Phal Virun speaks to reporters today after being questioned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in relation to former opposition leader Kem Sokha's "treason" case. Pha Lina

CPP spokesman and former Kem Sokha colleague questioned

Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Chhim Phal Virun was questioned Tuesday morning as a witness in the “treason” charges brought against former opposition leader Kem Sokha, his former colleague at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR).

Sokha has been held in a Tbong Khmum prison since his midnight arrest in September on widely decried charges of “treason”. The arrest followed the reappearance of a 2013 video in which Sokha says in a speech that he received advice from the United States to plan his political career.

The CPP spokesman was the second witness to be called in for questioning, though the first, former Beehive Radio President Mam Sonando – who has been embroiled in politically tinged cases of his own – has said he will not return from overseas to honour the summons for fear of arrest.

Phal Virun was questioned for close to three hours, and declined to give details afterwards. He did, however, say that the investigating judge focused on his relationship with Sokha when the two worked at CCHR, where Phal Virun was Sokha’s deputy.

“He only asked about issues relating to the work at CCHR and the crime [of Kem Sokha],” he said.

Sokha’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party was forcibly dissolved by a Supreme Court decision in November for allegedly plotting a so-called “colour revolution” with the help of foreign backers. Many of the party’s former lawmakers and other officials have fled the country for fear of arrest and intimidation as Sokha awaits trial.

Phal Virun had previously sued Sokha in 2006 for alleged breach of trust and use of false documents during the latter’s tenure as president of CCHR. Phal Virun’s case rested on accusations that Sokha embezzled thousands of dollars from unspecified donors and then created false documents to rebut the allegations.

When Sokha was questioned by the court in 2010, he denied the allegations and said an investigation by the International Republican Institute found no misuse of funds.

Given their history, Meng Sopheary, who is part of Sokha’s legal team, said Phal Virun was likely to provide biased testimony to the court, as evidenced by his frequent criticism of Sokha in the media.

“Chhim Phal Virun used to have a conflict at CCHR because CCHR ran out of funds and stopped [his employment] when he was a staffer at the centre,” she said, adding that Phal Virun’s testimony would not help the court ascertain the truth behind the “treason” allegations against Sokha.

Political commentator Lao Mong Hay said another conflict of interest lay in Phal Virun’s political allegiance – his job as spokesman of the ruling CPP, whose officials filed the formal request to have the CNRP dissolved ahead of this year’s hotly anticipated national elections.

“It is up to the defence counsel to challenge that testimony or the credibility of the witness because of his sort of conflict with Kem Sokha,” he said.

Updated: 6:54am, Wednesday 7 February 2018

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,