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NGO staff, former CNRP lawmakers ordered to testify in ‘treason’ case

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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 pretrial detention in March. Pha Lina

NGO staff, former CNRP lawmakers ordered to testify in ‘treason’ case

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summonsed eight people as witnesses to testify at the trial of Kem Sokha for alleged “treason”. The warrants were signed by Investigating Judge Ky Rithy and seen by The Post.

Among those summonsed are Pa Nguon Teang, a former Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) staffer and executive director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM); Chak Sopheap, the executive director of the CCHR; and Sia Phearum, the former executive director of the Human Rights Task Force (HRTF).

The others are Keo Rotana, a former host on 93.5 FM and the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) now-halted radio station; Khoeun Virath a former CNRP commune chief; Meas Kimseng, formerly of human rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut; Heng Pisith, from online media outlet Social Breaking News; and Kry Song, a former CCHR staff member.

Sokha, the former CNRP president, has been held in a Tbong Khmum prison since his midnight arrest on September 3. This followed the release of a 2013 video, in which he talks with supporters in Australia about having received foreign assistance during his political career.

“I, Ky Rithy, Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge, call [Sopheap] as a witness to come to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 7 [in the] case against the charged Kem Sokha for treason,” states a warrant signed by him and dated May 17.

However, the CCHR said in a statement released on Sunday that Sopheap is yet to receive the summons. “When [Sopheap] receives the summons, [she] will comply,” the statement said.

Phearum said he would not attend court to testify in Sokha’s case as he “does not know anything”. “I do not know anything as I was not involved with nor had any relationship with Kem Sokha.”

Political analyst Hang Pitu said: “When the court keeps summonsing people related to Kem Sokha, the government’s intention is to pressure, threaten and intimidate.

“This is the ruling party’s strategy for the elections to reduce certain civil organisations’ influence and activities,” he said.

Sokha has left prison only once since his arrest, for a bail hearing at the Appeal Court in February.

The CNRP was dissolved in November following a complaint from the Ministry of Interior. Some 118 party officials, including Sokha, have been banned from the political arena for five years.

His arrest warrant was issued after the court summonsed Beehive Radio founder Mam Sonando and CPP spokesman Chhim Phal Virun, a former CCHR staff member, as witnesses.

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