Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kem Sokha rejects ‘treason’ charges

Kem Sokha rejects ‘treason’ charges

Protesters gather outside Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court demanding opposition leader Kem Sokha’s release during a hearing last month.
Protesters gather outside Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court demanding opposition leader Kem Sokha’s release during a hearing last month. Heng Chivoan

Kem Sokha rejects ‘treason’ charges

In his first full statement since being arrested one month ago, jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha yesterday rejected any suggestions that he engaged in collusion with a foreign power against the Cambodian government, and called the midnight raid on his house a violation of his right to privacy and his parliamentary immunity.

The opposition leader was arrested on charges of “treason” on September 3 after a video shot in 2013 resurfaced the day before in which Sokha described getting American assistance to plan political strategies. Sokha’s letter yesterday was drafted by the party using notes handed over by his defence team, according to one of his lawyers, Sam Sokong.

In the three-page letter, Sokha accuses local authorities of violating his rights by breaking into his home and arresting him for allegedly committing an in flagrante delicto offence – or “red-handed crime” – allowing them to bypass his parliamentary immunity. He also denies that he committed treason – an accusation that has been parroted by senior government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“On the point that the authorities charged me, of colluding or conspiring and working with foreigners to topple the government, it is completely slanderous,” he said. The jailed leader goes on to explain that, in a democracy, it is the job of the primary opposition party to replace the ruling party – a point he made in the video that precipitated his arrest – but maintains that he has attempted to do this in only a “peaceful and positive” way.

“If the opposition party does not attempt to replace the ruling party it cannot be called an opposition party,” the letter reads. “So all my actions are not illegal.”

“If our nation dies there will be no rich or powerful people. It means everything is gone.”

Sokha also appeals to the Cambodian people to continue their pursuit for justice and change – which he says is only half-finished – and also calls on the international community to act immediately to prevent a “useless” election in 2018.

“[The] international community often says that democracy in Cambodia is heading towards a dangerous [point], and now democracy is taking its last breath,” he writes.

CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua and Sokha’s cabinet chief, Muth Chantha, both confirmed the authenticity of the letter, but directed further queries to his lawyers.

Sokong said the defence team had been taking notes since they first met Sokha at Tbong Khmum Provincial Prison, and he instructed them yesterday on which sections to include in the letter.

“We take notes, and he tells us what he wants to be in the letter. He wants to illustrate he is innocent and the authorities violated his rights,” Sokong said.

The government and law enforcement have been accused of violating parliamentary immunity in the past, which is only allowed in cases of an “in flagrante delicto” offence.

Even in such cases, the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority to lift an arrested lawmaker’s immunity. Though the ruling Cambodian People Party does not hold such a majority, it has repeatedly allowed cases against opposition lawmakers to proceed.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith took umbrage with Sokha’s claims that the arrest was a violation of his rights, saying the CNRP leader was “wrong”, and that the police would not “dare” arrest him had he not committed a flagrant offence.

“We take action according to the law because everybody knows, and we also know, that he has immunity. That is a right that no one can abuse, except that he committed a red handed crime,” Chantharith said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • Nearly 50 states join Kun Khmer Federation, all set for training

    In a little over a week, the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) has accepted membership requests from 20 new nations, in addition to the exiting 29. The sudden influx of international recognition stems from the Kingdom’s successful introduction of Kun Khmer to the 32nd Souheast Asian (

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports