Former opposition party leader Kem Sokha – who is undergoing trial for treason – has met separately with a senior US Senate official and the French ambassador to Cambodia to discuss a variety of topics, key of which included his hearing process.
US Senate official Paul Grove, who is a clerk for the Senate Appropriations Committee managing budget resources, met Sokha on April 23 at his residence to discuss the progress of the hearing against him.
Sokha, former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has been charged with several counts of conspiring with a foreign power, including the US, to topple the government.
“At this meeting, we discussed many issues such as the relationships between Cambodia and the US in the past, present and future, as well as regional and global issues,” Sokha said in a Facebook post after the meeting.
“In particular, Grove expressed concern about the current situation of human rights and democracy in Cambodia, and discussed the process of hearing the case against me on charges of conspiracy with a foreign organisation or state, including the US.”
He noted that Grove was “very interested in the democratic process” in Cambodia as well as in the region and has “more than 30 years” of experience in the field.
Sokha said his diplomatic relations and cooperation with foreign states – especially the US – since 1993 have been for the “best interests” of the nation and the Cambodian people, as well as democracy, human rights and development, as those countries are “friends” of Cambodia.
Sokha also met with French ambassador Jacques Pellet on April 22, a day after his latest trial session. At the meeting, Pellet asked Sokha about the prolonged trial process and the charges against him, which involve various foreign organisations and states including the EU, of which France is a member.
Sokha also thanked the French government and the EU for “actively participating” in the 1991 Paris Peace Accords and “continuing to help the Cambodian people in various fields”, especially in observing the human rights and democratic processes in Cambodia, as well as in sending diplomats to witness his trial and current rights and freedoms.
Chan Chen, one of Sokha’s lawyers, said the defence team was reviewing the application form to be submitted to countries involved in the case.
Sokha’s defence team said last week that they were considering sending requests to foreign countries alleged to be involved in Sokha’s case to provide substantiating evidence.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the meeting between Sokha, the French ambassador and the senior US senate official was “nothing new” as Sokha has routinely met with many diplomats and foreign officials.
“This meeting is just to [fulfil] what was promised and suggested by foreign diplomats, who have always considered that the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are important. So what they do is maintain a position of being involved in the internal affairs of Cambodia,” he said.
“However, this is not the driving force causing Cambodian courts to be involved with foreign state representatives.”
Phea suggested that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court expedite Sokha’s case in order to prevent it from being protracted and “pushing it into political traps”.