Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kem Sokha’s detention upheld as guards scuffle with ex-leader’s supporters outside courthouse




Kem Sokha’s detention upheld as guards scuffle with ex-leader’s supporters outside courthouse

A protester is slapped by chief of the Daun Penh security guards Kim Vutha near the Appeal Court, where opposition leader Kem Sokha was challenging the extension of his pre-trial detention on Tuesday.
A protester is slapped by chief of the Daun Penh security guards Kim Vutha near the Appeal Court, where opposition leader Kem Sokha was challenging the extension of his pre-trial detention on Tuesday. Pann Rachana

Kem Sokha’s detention upheld as guards scuffle with ex-leader’s supporters outside courthouse

The Appeal Court rejected a challenge from jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha against the extension of his pre-trial detention on Tuesday, as the notorious Daun Penh security guards returned to their heavy-handed tactics in scuffles with Sokha supporters outside.

The hearing was conducted within a heavy security cordon around the court, enforced by the district security guards and municipal police, leaving journalists and monitors unable to attend the hearing that decided if Sokha will remain in jail up to five more months.

The decision was seemingly predicted by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who at a graduation ceremony said the Appeal Court was unlikely to consider Sokha’s plea.

“I don’t believe the Appeal Court will release the chief traitor because it is a treason case, but I will respect the court’s decision,” he said Tuesday morning.

Read our live blog from the day here.

The former Cambodia National Rescue Party president has been imprisoned at a Tbong Khmum province facility since his September arrest on “treason” charges, and his previous bail requests have been rejected.

On Tuesday, Sokha’s lawyers contested a ruling handed down earlier this month to extend his pre-trial detention.

The treason case is currently with a lower court investigating judge and no trial date has been set. It rests largely on a 2013 video, recently re-circulated, in which Sokha tells supporters he received foreign advice in planning his political career.

The charges have been widely panned by the international community, as has the forced dissolution of Sokha’s Cambodia National Rescue Party – the nation’s only credible opposition – over allegations it was fomenting “revolution”.

Meng Sopheary, a lawyer for Sokha, said the Appeal Court should have considered that the Phnom Penh investigating judge had already had six months to gather evidence in the case and should not need an extension. “I, as any other citizen, can see this is a political case because there was no crime,” she said. “The extension of detention affects his rights because there is no evidence.”

While Sokha was expected to appear, having been served a summons, he was absent from Tuesday’s hearing.

Police man a barricade near the Appeal Court on Tuesday.
Police man a barricade near the Appeal Court on Tuesday. Pha Lina

Court spokesman Touch Tharith, who on Monday had said Sokha was expected to attend, would not explain the reason behind his absence.

“But his lawyers still participated to present his arguments in the court,” he said.

Nuth Savna, deputy chief of the Prisons Department, said it was ascertained by officials that Sokha did not have to be taken to court, claiming security issues. However, Sokha made the same trip to the capital for a bail hearing at the Appeal Court in February.

“Through discussions and legal considerations, it was decided it is not necessary to bring him. And what is important is that it is related to security concerns,” Savna said.

Earlier in the day, Phnom Penh police officials and security guards barricaded all roads leading to the Appeal Court, preventing journalists, CNRP supporters and rights groups from accessing the hearing.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Security personnel move along protesters who turned up at the Appeal Court on Tuesday in support of Kem Sokha. Pha Lina

As crowds started to gather near Wat Botum Park on Sothearos Boulevard, Daun Penh district security guards – who have gained a reputation for their frequent violent crackdowns on peaceful protesters – continually tried to push back CNRP supporters and officials, even preventing them from giving interviews to the media.

One of the supporters, Pen Chan, drew a message in support of Sokha on the street but was quickly pounced on by the security guards, with the guards’ head, Kim Vutha, slapping him in the face and ordering him to erase the message.

“You have to erase it. There are no politics allowed here,” a reporter overheard Vutha say.


Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith said the court should release Sokha if it had failed to find any evidence so far, at least temporarily. Sokha’s legal team have applied for bail on health grounds, citing a pinched blood vessel in his back.

“[It] has been more than six months, and by law if you don’t have any evidence to prove that he committed a crime then the court has to consider releasing him,” said Chanrith.

Meanwhile, Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Choun Sovann on Tuesday held a meeting with the capital’s district police officials, asking them to closely monitor any potential opposition activities ahead of this July’s national election.

“After we analyse [this information] we can predict the situation and can find out the weaknesses of the opposition and its intentions to oppose and cause chaos in society,” he said.

Additional Reporting by Ben Sokhean and Mech Dara

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15