Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Questioning draws rally

Questioning draws rally

Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy waves to supporters from the entrance of Phnom Penh Municipal Court before being questioned yesterday.
Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy waves to supporters from the entrance of Phnom Penh Municipal Court before being questioned yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Questioning draws rally

Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha were questioned at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, but were released without charge in a case they say amounts to nothing more than political machinations by the ruling party.

The duo, along with unionist Rong Chhun, arrived at the court separately yesterday morning to face questioning over claims they incited garment workers to commit crimes and disrupt social order after their strikes took a violent turn earlier this month.

“They just asked us questions in order to assess our possible involvement in the worker demonstrations, so we have explained to them [that] even though we support the workers’ cause, we have never been involved in any act of violence,” Rainsy said at a press conference following the questioning.

The CNRP had simply provided “moral and intellectual support to workers”, he said.

Thousands rallied outside the court for almost five hours in the morning and early afternoon yesterday as opposition politicians, waiting for questioning, appeared sporadically at the building’s windows to vociferous chanting from the crowd.

When they finally emerged at close to 2pm, the leaders briefly greeted the crowd before leading a motorbike rally back to the Cambodia National Rescue Party offices in Meanchey district.

There, they regaled the crowd with tales of the verbal sparring that had occurred between the leaders and court deputy prosecutor Heang Sopheak.

“I told the prosecutor that I have supported the workers for 20 years, so why [have you accused] me at this time,” Rainsy said. “[The CNRP’s] political platform has workers’ minimum wage at $160 since before the election, so why do you [accuse] me at this time?”

Sokha told supporters that he had turned the tables on the prosecutor.

“I asked the prosecutor back, whatever you accuse me, question me, come on, question me freely. But I ask you one question in return. The shooters [of garment workers], have you summonsed them to questioning? But I looked at the prosecutor’s face, and there seemed to be a hammer pounding [on him] from the top.

“If there is no political pressure from the top ordering the prosecutor, or the court to do something, the issue would be finished, because we have done nothing wrong,” he said.

A political solution to the ongoing deadlock, Rainsy told reporters, would see the case disappear.

“The problem is a political one, as long as there is no political solution yet, there will be a judicial issue pending. But when there is a political solution, then the judicial issue will disappear,” he said.

The leaders added that they had told the prosecutor they had not seen workers acting violently against the armed forces and their party had not incited the workers to protest.

Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha makes his way into Phnom Penh Municipal Court
Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Kem Sokha makes his way into Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Deputy prosecutor Sopheak confirmed yesterday that he had summonsed the opposition leaders for clarification regarding claims they had incited workers, emphasising that they were still under investigation.

“If they still commit [similar problems] anywhere, and there are any more problems, [we] can summons them [again],” he warned.

Sopheak declined to respond to allegations that he was pursuing the case due to political pressure, adding that this was a politician’s illusion.

Council of Ministers spokesman Tith Sothea dismissed this allegation yesterday, saying that anyone who broke the law would be held liable in the Kingdom.

“We cannot paint this as politically motivated or [say] that the court is under the pressure of the government. This is a long-held accusation of the opposition party but [it is not true],” he said.

Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association and the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, faced questioning first yesterday morning, as tension built outside the court following Kem Sokha’s arrival at about 9am.

The crowd, numbering about 1,000 at that point, appeared restless, with some groups chasing helmeted district security guards into the grounds of the Olympic Stadium when they were spotted.

Tensions were largely defused when CNRP security intervened to calm the crowd. Rainsy arrived at about 10am, following which the crowd swelled to a few thousand and news arrived the Chhun had not been charged.

Community land activists Tim Sakmony and Phuong Sopheap, two opposition supporters waiting for Rainsy and Sokha in front of the court, wished for a parallel scenario, one in which Hun Sen and other government officials were summonsed to the International Criminal Court.

“Please ICC, summons Hun Sen, [defence minister] Tea Banh and [Interior Minister] Sar Kheng for conviction,” Sakmony said.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • Delta spreading in Kingdom

    Cambodia has so far detected more than 200 cases of the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant, with 109 found on July 31 and August 1. The Ministry of Health has expressed deep concerns that the variant may have already reached communities and be spreading as some of the cases

  • US' Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrive

    The first batch of 455,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the US touched down in Phnom Penh on the morning of July 30. They are part of the total 1,060,100 doses the US has pledged to provide to Cambodia through the World Health Organisation-led (

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four