A political analyst has claimed that former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha will get bail later this month – once the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) takes control of the National Assembly after its landslide victory in the July 29 national elections.
After being arrested in a midnight raid nearly a year ago, Sokha is set to have a bail hearing at the Supreme Court on August 22.
He has been held in pre-trial detention in a Tbong Khmum province prison for the past 11 months.
One of Sokha’s lawyers, Meng Sopheary, said on Thursday that she wanted to see her client given bail. “We want to have a hearing with a positive outcome,” she said.
She also expressed her desire to have Sokha present for the bail hearing, saying it was important for him to be there.
“At all stages of the procedure, whether on bail or at the hearing, we want him there . . . he can tell us his difficulties in prison and other problems that he wants to raise with the court,” Sopheary said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay was of the view that Sokha should get bail after the ruling party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s election.
“It will be an opportunity for the government, after feeling ever so comfortably secure in power, to show its magnanimity and also its humanity by allowing Kem Sokha bail, now that his health is known to be deteriorating,” Hay said on Thursday.
Many Western countries, including those from the European Union, had demanded the release of Kem Sokha and for the Supreme Court dissolved CNRP to be allowed to take part in the election.
However, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said no external influences would factor into Sokha’s bail hearing.
Malin said on Thursday that the judges will make their own decision based on legal and factual provisions.
“In general a demand or pressure from any group will have no effect on the court’s right to make independent decisions. The court will not consider the demands or be pressured. It will consider legal and factual matters, testimony and relevant proof,” said Malin.
This month’s hearing will mark the second time that Sokha has requested bail, after being denied it in March. Malin confirmed that a suspect can request bail as many times as they want, but results would only change with new proof.
“If he just requests bail but doesn’t have any new evidence or new testimony, perhaps the court’s decision won’t change,” he said.
Asked if the government would allow Sokha bail as a gift after the election victory, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said there are no gifts for prisoners.
“The gifts Samdech [Hun Sen] gives are only for citizens, for example, they get free train rides during the Pchum Ben holiday or Khmer New Year. This is a gift. We cannot let freedom be a gift for prisoners or those who violate the law,” he said.
Sokha was previously given a pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni over charges meted by the Phnom Penh Municipal court after he failed to appear for questioning over a controversial prostitution case brought against him.
Before the pardon, he spent months holed up in the CNRP’s headquarters in the capital.
Sokha stood accused of prostitution over an alleged affair with hairdresser Khom Chandaraty, aka Srey Mom.