Three of four men accused of plotting to “overthrow” Cambodia’s government have pleaded for fair treatment ahead of the verdict set for January 14.
Appearing in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, the trio used the last day of their trial to distance themselves from the fourth defendant in the case – Khmer People Power Movement leader Sourn Serey Ratha – who is being tried in absentia.
The men – KPPM members Serey Bunlong and Sen Someng and civilian Oum Phirum – are charged with treason and obstructing electoral procedures after reportedly handing out T-shirts with slogans warning citizens to abstain from voting in last year’s national election.
US resident Serey Ratha, who has been labelled a terrorist by the government, has also been charged with treason for allegedly calling on the armed forces to turn their weapons against “the despot” Prime Minister Hun Sen in a Facebook post last year.
The defendants who appeared in court said they were simply working for money and were not involved in Serey Ratha’s alleged plot.
Each made their own requests to presiding judge Top Chhun Heng.
Phirum, 28, asked the court to please “prosecute only my case and do not include my case with Ratha’s case”.
Meng, 32, asked the court to drop the charges, while Bunlong, 30, requested that the case be prosecuted “fairly”.
Their attorney Sok Sam Oeun called for their freedom, saying they had not attempted to betray their country.
However, deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth said they had a “clear goal to overthrow the government”.
The court has heard that Serey Ratha – who rejects the charges against him – ordered Phirum to make 500 T-shirts with the KPPM’s emblem and slogans telling people not to vote in Cambodia’s “fake election”.
The plan also entailed ordering KPPM emblazoned watches and radios to give to villagers.