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

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Time to avert disastrous Covid situation: officials

    The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia is heading towards further large-scale community transmission as the total number of confirmed cases is nearing 61,000 and the death toll passed 900 on July 10, senior health officials warned. Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine expressed concern that the country was going

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided