Weighing in again on the detention of former opposition colleague Kem Sokha, Sam Rainsy suggested over the weekend that US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel should also be prosecuted for their alleged involvement in Sokha’s “treason”.
But Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan hit back shortly after, calling Rainsy a “foolish person”.
Supporters of the court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) expressed optimism last week as a series of pardons for prominent activists coincided with another bail hearing for the party’s former president, now being held in detention in a Tbong Khmum prison under charges of conspiring with a foreign nation.
However, hopes for Sokha’s release were dashed when the investigating judge renewed his detention, despite nearly one year passing without the case going to trial.
After the hearing, Rainsy urged the court to charge him with treason as well, pointing out that he had been the CNRP’s president when the alleged conspiracy occurred.
The only evidence cited in the case is a 2013 video clip which shows Sokha addressing followers in Australia, claiming he received advice in planning his political career from US leaders.
On Saturday, commenting on Sokha’s continued detention, Rainsy posted on Facebook that leaders from the US and Germany should be charged alongside the former as they were the ones allegedly supporting the conspiracy.
After the investigating judge extended Sokha’s pre-trial detention by another six months, Rainsy, who is president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, mocked the government, calling on it to link the US and German governments to the matter.
“The US administration ‘colluded with the CNRP to topple the Cambodian government’ through assistance provided to the Cambodian opposition party by the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute in the form of training and developing human resources.
“The German government also ‘colluded with the CNRP to topple the Cambodian government’ by providing assistance to the Cambodian opposition party through the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which helped the CNRP draft its current platform.
“Therefore, by Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen’s logic, US president Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel should also be prosecuted as two co-accused persons next to Kem Sokha for collusion to topple the Hun Sen government,” Rainsy claimed.
Siphan, however, said the Kingdom had no right to prosecute foreign countries.
“It is his political point of view – trying to drag other countries into court accusations. There is enough evidence that his [Kem Sokha’s] remarks and actions were enough for the court to prosecute,” he said, adding that Rainsy was a “foolish person” to call for the charges to be made.
“If the court has enough evidence to prosecute, the court can give a verdict on the Kem Sokha case. It is within the rights of the judiciary. For example, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal did not make accusations against the governments of the US, China or Vietnam.
“Sam Rainsy is fabricating political matters that are not within the boundaries of the court,” Siphan said.
Some have claimed that keeping Sokha in detention draws more difficulties for the Hun Sen government. Western criticisms of the July 29 national elections have often called for his immediate release and reinstatement of his party.
However analyst Meas Nee said extending the detention would prove beneficial for the ruling party.
“If you talk about political benefits, the ruling party has succeeded in silencing the opposition party. Its president was detained, and there has not been any movement after the opposition party was dissolved,” he said.
“If the government were to release him by dropping the charge, it would cause a major problem for it. Everyone knows his detention was politically motivated. The government will lose face when there is no evidence, which means it was just making an accusation. I still believe there will be a release. It is just a matter of time,” he said.
Nee said Hun Sen’s upcoming meetings with leaders of the United Nations and European Union were a big factor in the decision.
“It might complicate diplomatic relations. If we accuse with no evidence, it will affect our country’s prestige as we have accused others with no evidence to support the claims. We simply accused,” he said.