Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Outrage at ‘Adhoc 5’ hearing as key witnesses absent and verdict looms

Outrage at ‘Adhoc 5’ hearing as key witnesses absent and verdict looms

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ny Sokha (centre left) and Yi Soksan (centre right) are escorted to a hearing at the Phnom Penh Appeal Court in 2016. Heng Chivoan

Outrage at ‘Adhoc 5’ hearing as key witnesses absent and verdict looms

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday resumed the trial of the “Adhoc 5,” the name for a group of rights activists accused of bribing a hairdresser to lie about an alleged romantic relationship with jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha.

The full-day hearing proceeded without two key witnesses – the hairdresser Khum Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom, and her lawyer, Try Chhoun.

Judge Duch Sok Sarin said the witnesses had been summonsed to appear, but that Chandaraty had changed her address while Chhoun had asked to be absent because of a health problem.

The defendants were outraged, accusing the two witnesses of acting with ill-intent and seeking to evade the hearing.

The Adhoc 5 legal team reiterated its claim that the two must be present for the trial to be legitimate.

The Adhoc 5 lawyers requested that the court drop the charges. Among their arguments, they said the accusation of bribery was unclear. “In what case was Srey Mom a witness for?” they asked.

Prosecutor Seng Hieng disagreed. He asked the council of judges to uphold the charges and to sentence the Adhoc 5 according to law. Judge Sok Sarin said a verdict would be delivered on Sept. 26.

The Adhoc 5 includes four officials from rights group Adhoc – Nay Vanda, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony – and Ny Chakrya, a former Adhoc and National Election Committee (NEC) official. All five attended the hearing on Tuesday.

The group was in pre-trial detention for more than 14 months after they were arrested in April 2016 by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) and subsequently charged with bribing Chandaraty. They were released on bail in June last year.

The arguments on Tuesday focused on why Adhoc decided to help Chandaraty and why the rights group gave her $204.

Vanda was the first to testify. He asked to be allowed to remain silent because of poor health and asked the court to consider his testimony during the initial investigation.

He said the accusation against him was unjust because Chandaraty came and asked for help from Adhoc.

Soksan testified that Vanda and he went to take Chandaraty from a factory after she asked for help. He said he met Chandaraty three times, but he did not know clearly about the $204.

He said Adhoc’s policy was to support impoverished people who asked for help by giving them $7 for food and another $7 for lodging, plus unspecified travel costs.

All four Adhoc defendants said Chandaraty came to Adhoc’s office. They said she was “frightened” because she had been called by the Anti-Terrorism Department of the Ministry of Interior for the second time after a defamation complaint filed by Thy Sovantha, a well-known opposition critic.

“First Srey Mom’s mother came to us wearing a mask to ask for help. She seemed scared. Back then, Srey Mom was a suspect in a complaint filed by Thy Sovantha. She wasn’t a witness,” he said.

Sokha expressed doubt about the close relationship between Chandaraty and her lawyer.

“It was strange for me to see a lawyer and her client was so close to each other that they went to the province together. Try Chhoun was on a mission to Prey Veng province and she brought Srey Mom along,” Ny Sokha said.

Chakrya, the former NEC official, said he did not have any connection with Adhoc after he ended his job there in February 2016. But he said he once met Sokha who told him to take a message to Try Chhoun.

“He [Sokha] told me to tell Try Chhoun that there should not be too many press conferences,” Chakrya said. “I was charged with being an accomplice to bribing a witness. Who is the witness and in what case?”

Thieng Seng, an ACU official, testified that the case involved two groups – lawmakers with the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, and members of Adhoc’s staff.

“The lawmakers’ group bribed Srey Mom not to tell the truth,” he said.

According to her answer during the investigation, Chandaraty said she really had a love affair with Sokha but claimed that Adhoc staff told her to say the opposite.

“I told Adhoc that the audio that was leaked was the truth. But Adhoc told me to stay firm and protect my reputation,” she said in a court document.

Try Chhoun also claimed that Adhoc staff had always consulted with Chandaraty before she spoke to the media or the court.

The five defendants denied the accusation. “Srey Mom’s answers, which said I instructed her on what to say, were not true, that’s why she cannot join the court hearing today,” Yi Sokkan said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and