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

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting