Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nine entry points into city cut off ahead of Kem Sokha’s hearing

Nine entry points into city cut off ahead of Kem Sokha’s hearing

Trucks are stopped for inspection at a security checkpoint on National Road 3 in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Trucks are stopped for inspection at a security checkpoint on National Road 3 in Phnom Penh yesterday. Mech Dara

Nine entry points into city cut off ahead of Kem Sokha’s hearing

At least nine police checkpoints on the major entry points into Phnom Penh have been set up ahead of today’s trial of acting CNRP president Kem Sokha, with the opposition claiming supporters were being hindered from attending a party rally.

The checkpoints, manned by provincial, district, traffic and military police, were set up on national roads 1 through 6 on the outskirts of the capital in Kandal province, according to rights group Licadho.

The Post visited four of the checkpoints yesterday, and though most appeared to be simple traffic posts, each were manned by at least a dozen armed security personnel.

The security posts were set up days before Sokha’s trial – on charges stemming from his refusal to appear for court summonses – and coincide with City Hall’s green light for a rally of opposition supporters at party headquarters to “observe” the proceedings.

A map provided by the rights group Licadho shows the locations of several roadblocks set up in recent days.
A map provided by the rights group Licadho shows the locations of several roadblocks set up in recent days.

Police officials at the posts said they had been deployed to carry out traffic checks, maintain security and monitor any untoward import of weapons and explosives. They uniformly insisted the checks had nothing to do with Sokha’s pending trial.

A police officer at a checkpoint on National Road 1 in Kandal’s Kien Svay district said he had been deployed there by his senior officer to protect the “ring roads” leading in to Phnom Penh.

A nearby motodop, Vun Vith, said the personnel had been deployed there for several days; they hadn’t left the post and, he claimed, were stationed to block people from entering the capital.

Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun said the authorities would keep an eye on CNRP supporters entering the city as well.

“Do you think it is good idea to allow people to flock into Phnom Penh and create traffic jams? Why would you ask me this question?” he said.

On being asked how many checkpoints had been set up in the province as of yesterday, Chamrouen said: “Brother, you drive your motorbike and have a look at all the roads across Phnom Penh and count them.”

He added that if people flocked to the city on Friday, authorities would have to “implement the law”.

CNRP party spokesman Yim Sovann said the presence of the checkpoints around the city’s access routes was clearly aimed at blocking party supporters.

“Why are they barring supporters from coming here?” he asked. “All the roads are blocked, but some of the supporters are taking motos or walking to get here.”

Sovann said the CNRP had received reports that some supporters coming in from Kampot, Svay Rieng and Takeo provinces had already been turned back.

Takeo police chief Ouk Samnang and Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khoung Sreng both offered the same reasons for the deployment.

However, Sreng added: “If you [CNRP] follow the law, there will be no problem, but when you break the law, you will have a problem.”

Sokha received backing ahead of his trial from US Representative Edward Royce, a Republican from California and a long-time champion of the opposition who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives.

In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Royce described the cases against the opposition as “spurious and politically motivated”, and said they had led to “the continued deterioration of democracy in Cambodia”.

“Without the full and free participation of the CNRP, the results of future elections will be deeply flawed, something we can simply not accept,” Royce wrote, adding that Hun Sen should “stop harassing and brutalizing Kem Sokha and other opposition leaders”.

Separately, the CNRP released a statement that once again called on the court to drop the charges against Sokha, with the party classifying the case as “illegal” because he retains his parliamentary immunity.

Party lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang also asked the ruling CPP to start negotiations, adding that a political solution was the only way to end the stalemate.

“The CNRP would like to call for the parties to meet and talk to seek a solution,” he said. “A real solution is not based on the courts, but on negotiations.”

Separately, Sokha’s five lawyers filed a motion with the Appeal Court yesterday asking it to swap out trial judge Keo Mony, saying he had tried multiple opposition cases and was biased.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophanna said defence lawyers had a right to request a change of judge, and it would be considered based on the law and the court’s procedures.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10