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New summons for Sokha as local chief questioned

Seang Chet (centre), commune chief of the Sam Rainsy Party, is escorted out of Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday afternoon after being questioned.
Seang Chet (centre), commune chief of the Sam Rainsy Party, is escorted out of Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday afternoon after being questioned. Heng Chivoan

New summons for Sokha as local chief questioned

Acting opposition leader Kem Sokha has been issued a summons yet again to answer questions over an alleged prostitution case involving hairdresser Khom Chandaraty after he failed to appear before the court on Tuesday.

In a related case stemming from the same scandal, Sam Rainsy Party member Seang Chet, a commune chief in Kampong Cham, yesterday was in court for a second time to answer questions on the alleged bribery of Chandaraty’s family.

In an order issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court obtained yesterday, deputy prosecutor Seang Sok ordered Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) second-in-command Sokha to appear as a witness in court on May 26.

But CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann confirmed that Sokha will continue to ignore the summons. “He will not go [to court]. Firstly, because he still has immunity; secondly, he has not done anything wrong,” Sovann said.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin and Phnom Penh court spokesman Ly Sophanna warned further steps could be taken to compel Sokha to appear, but they did not specify what those steps were.

“If he still does not appear this clearly shows he does not cooperate and is not fulfilling his obligation to the law. The court can take procedures if he does not appear after the second summons,” Malin said.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said that although Sokha was legally protected by immunity, in the current political climate it was no guarantee he would not be arrested.

“Now I cannot predict what will happen, because lawmakers who have immunity have already been jailed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chet was questioned for two hours for information into the alleged bribery, which his wife had previously defended as a $500 charitable donation from Cambodians abroad to Chandaraty’s mother, which she ultimately did not accept.

Chet will apply for bail next week. Kem Sokha also refused to appear last week after being summonsed over a $1 million defamation case launched by social media celebrity Thy Sovantha in the wake of phone recordings of conversations, purportedly between Kem Sokha and Chandaraty, were aired online.

Independent political analyst Ou Virak said people would lose confidence in the judicial system if Sokha was arrested, adding that hostility for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party would only grow.

“If the CPP wants to destroy the CNRP, as long as citizens are unhappy with the ruling party, the destruction won’t be effective,” he said.

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