The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered Pa Nguon Teang, a respected media figure, to appear on August 18 as a witness in its investigation into an alleged sex scandal surrounding Kem Sokha, the acting president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The court’s August 3 summons requires Nguon Teang, the executive director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, to appear for questioning in relation to bribery charges against four jailed Adhoc staffers, a National Election Committee official and a CNRP commune chief.
The six were locked up in early May after being charged with bribing Sokha’s alleged mistress, Khom Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom, to lie about her affair with the opposition leader.
The cases against Sokha and the six are widely seen as politically motivated.
Nguon Teang’s summons comes nearly two weeks after Adhoc’s Prey Veng coordinator, Eang Kimly, was questioned as a defence witness in the case.
When reached yesterday, Nguon Teang said he would comply with the order.
“They have just invited me as a witness,” he said. “I have no involvement in this case and I have never committed anything illegal.”
However, the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Om Yentieng, speaking at a Voice of Democracy roundtable on May 9, claimed Sokha had used Nguon Teang, who heads VOD, as a conduit to set up a meeting with NEC official Ny Chakrya.
Reached yesterday, Yentieng said the case was now out of his purview and refused to elaborate on his earlier comments.
“My task is done and I have closed the investigation already. It is now the task of the court, so you can ask the court,” he said.
Investigating judge Theam Chanpiseth directed press queries to court spokesman Ly Sophanna, who would only confirm that Nguon Teang had been summonsed as a witness.
Political analyst Ou Virak said that while Nguon Teang’s close relationship to Sokha was well known to the authorities, it was likely his involvement with the Black Monday campaign that had resulted in the summons.
“Pa Nguon Teang is part of the campaign and posts photos of himself [supporting the campaign] and the government has noticed that,” he said, adding that the government was not comfortable with civil society’s support for the Black Monday campaign, which yesterday saw a land rights activist arrested.
Also yesterday, the Appeal Court rejected a request by NEC official Ny Chakrya to quash court proceedings against him. Chakrya has been charged as an accomplice in the alleged bribing of Chandaraty, and is being detained at PJ Prison.
Sam Sokong, Chakrya’s lawyer, cited Article 38 of the Constitution – which deals with coerced confessions and a detainee’s rights – in his application to have the lower court’s investigation quashed.
“He was questioned for a long time and did not have enough food to eat, felt frightened, tired and was unable to listen and understand the questions,” Sokong said. “According to the Constitution, the Appeal Court should have accepted our complaint as valid and nullified proceedings.”
However, presiding judge Nguon Ratana ruled that Chakrya’s rights had not been violated despite the defendant being questioned multiple times in a day or beyond administrative hours.
Additional reporting by Ananth Baliga