Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kem Sokha summonsed over Sovantha suit

Kem Sokha summonsed over Sovantha suit

Kem Sokha, acting leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was yesterday summonsed to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in relation to a $1 million defamation case.
Kem Sokha, acting leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was yesterday summonsed to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in relation to a $1 million defamation case. Victoria Mørck Madsen

Kem Sokha summonsed over Sovantha suit

Two months after the anonymous release of taped phone conversations purportedly between acting CNRP president Kem Sokha and an alleged mistress, the deputy opposition leader has been summonsed to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, along with two other CNRP lawmakers.

Deputy prosecutor for the case Keo Socheat yesterday confirmed a summons for May 11 had been issued in relation to a $1 million defamation case brought by social media celebrity Thy Sovantha but declined to answer further questions.

“I do not want to talk about the summons, but it has been sent to the individual already via the police,” he said.

Sokha, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, is being sued by Sovantha for allegedly disparaging her in one of the purported conversations between himself and salon worker Khom Chandaraty.

CNRP lawmakers Tok Vanchan and Pin Ratana were also yesterday summonsed by the deputy prosecutor to appear on May 16 for questioning “related to prostitution”.

The two were named by Chandaraty in her testimony when she identified herself and Sokha as the two individuals on the audio recordings.

Vanchan and Ratana were identified as the men who had taken her to meet Sokha in Bangkok on two separate occasions, according to local news website Fresh News. The two lawmakers could not be reached for comment yesterday.

All three men are ostensibly protected by parliamentary immunity, though lawyer Sok Sam Oeun, former head of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the court’s actions suggested their immunity as lawmakers simply no longer existed.

“Immunity can either be priceless or meaningless, and in the constitution, immunity is meant for protection,” he said. “When a lawmaker can be summonsed or arrested at any time, it may make them fearful and may dare not express their ideas.”

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long yesterday said it was up to the court to ask the parliament via the Ministry of Justice to lift immunity, and in the case of a summons, an appearance remained at the lawmakers’ discretion.

Sovantha, for her part, questioned why it had taken this long to summons Sokha, given that Chandararty had already testified twice and she herself once.

“He should have been [summonsed] last month,” she said.

CNRP senior whip Son Chhay said while Sokha had not shied away from appearing in court in the past, he couldn’t predict if Sokha would attend this time around.

“[There is] no doubt that, if this is an appropriate case, he may [appear], but you cannot just do anything to a member of parliament who has immunity,” he said.

In a statement released yesterday before news of the fresh summonses emerged, CNRP lawmakers condemned Monday’s charging of five rights workers and National Election Committee (NEC) official Ny Chakrya in relation to the case, asking the court to drop the charges unconditionally.

“We call on the international community and donors to intervene and get the government to stop its intimidation, threats and harassment of the opposition, NGOs and human rights defenders,” the statement said.

The lawmakers also called for the release of their colleagues Hong Sok Hour and Um Sam An, jailed on treason and incitement charges, respectively, over their public condemnation of the government’s handling of border issues with Vietnam.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea yesterday said that while the body could not interfere in the proceedings, it would monitor the court’s actions and attempt to visit Chakrya soon.

Several more international rights groups, meanwhile, joined the chorus condemning the case, with Transparency International saying it was seriously concerned about the allegations of political interference and intimidation of human rights activists.

“The Anti-Corruption Unit should not be used in such a way that intimidates and silences the voice of civil society activists,” said Elena Panfilova, vice-chair of Transparency International, whose local arm has a working relationship with the ACU.

Human Rights Watch called the case a campaign to curtail domestic and international human rights monitoring in Cambodia.

“No one should mistake these prosecutions for anything other than Prime Minister Hun Sen’s effort to undo decades of work by Cambodian groups and the UN to promote the human rights of all Cambodians,” said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.

MOST VIEWED

  • Rainsy stopped in Paris from boarding Thai flight

    Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday. Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Prayut indicates no entry into Thailand for CNRP’s Rainsy

    Cambodian government officials on Wednesday welcomed the position of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after he indicated that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to return to Cambodia through Thailand. “According to our commitment to Asean, we will not interfere in each other’s internal