Lawyers for jailed opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on the final day of his trial yesterday that prosecutors had failed to provide enough evidence to support claims he forged a public document and incited social chaos.
Sok Hour was arrested on the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen in August 2015 and charged with forgery and inciting social chaos after a video of him presenting an allegedly falsified diplomatic treaty with Vietnam during a lecture was posted on Facebook.
The document, a modified version of a real treaty, said that the government had agreed to dissolve Cambodia’s international border with Vietnam in the early 1980s – but Sok Hour has denied forging the document himself, saying he found it on Google.
Repeated postponements and appeals on procedural matters have delayed the trial’s conclusion, and at yesterday’s final hearing, the prosecution called to the stand Bun Soksekha, a deputy office head inside the Interior Ministry’s counterterrorism department.
Soksekha said he had sought an arrest warrant for Sokha after realising the treaty was false and inflammatory.
“We saw that Hong Sok Hour posted the video lasting over 11 minutes on [opposition leader] Sam Rainsy’s Facebook page at about 12am, and at 1am, I checked the content of the treaty and what he said in the video, and saw that it was fake,” he said.
Asked how he believed the video constituted incitement to cause social chaos, the officer said the political tensions at the time between the CPP and CNRP on the issue of the border meant it was inflammatory.
“At the time, the government was solving border issues with Vietnam, and some youth were going to check the border. So, this post seemed to create chaos,” Seksokha said. “I believe that it created chaos.”
During cross-examination, Sok Hour’s defence team said there was no evidence the video’s posting had, in fact, incited any type of chaos.
“After posting the video clip, were there tensions or chaos? I did not see any chaos,” one of the lawyers, Meng Sopheary, said.
While Soksekha admitted there had been no ensuing chaos, it was only “because police took quick actions”, he said. “Otherwise, chaos really would have happened.”
Sok Hour told the court that he had made a mistake by presenting the modified treaty in his lecture but had neither forged anything nor tried to cause chaos in society by making that mistake.
“When I saw that document on the internet, I myself did not believe that it was a real treaty. But I forced myself to believe it for that moment,” Sok Hour said, also denying he meant to cause chaos.
“My intention in posting that video was to seek an explanation on border problems . . . [and] to avoid chaos in the society, to avoid conflict among us.”
The explanation found no purchase with prosecutor Sieng Sok, who closed his case by asking the court to find Sok Hour guilty of both accusations against him, which could see the senator jailed for up to 17 years.
“While the government was solving border conflicts with Vietnam and calling on the public to be calm, Hong Sok Hour posted the video,” Sok told the judges. “This was a trigger to violence, causing the public to have anger about border conflicts. If he was not stopped, there would have been chaos.”
A verdict is due on November 7.