Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stormy trial for Kim Sok



Stormy trial for Kim Sok

Political analyst Kim Sok, seen yesterday through a fenced police vehicle outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where he was tried on defamation and incitement charges filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Political analyst Kim Sok, seen yesterday through a fenced police vehicle outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where he was tried on defamation and incitement charges filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Hong Menea

Stormy trial for Kim Sok

During his turbulent trial yesterday in an incitement and defamation case brought by Prime Minister Hun Sen, political analyst Kim Sok walked out of the Phnom Penh municipal courtroom in protest before being brought back in, only to theatrically plug his ears before the judge.

Much of the two-hour hearing in the case, which could result in fines of up to a half million dollars and jail time, was spent on a newly submitted request by Sok for the premier to testify.

The analyst was hit with two lawsuits in February – one after appearing to insinuate in a Radio Free Asia interview that the government was behind the killing of popular political analyst Kem Ley, who was gunned down in July last year, and the other after publicly attempting to clarify the offending remarks.

Judge Ky Rithy rejected Sok’s request for Hun Sen to appear, saying the prime minister “is already represented by a lawyer”.

The premier’s lawyer, Ky Tech, argued that he was the voice of the prime minister in the case. “I am the complainant,” he said. “[And] how can he request Samdech [Hun Sen] to stand with him?”

When the request was rejected, Sok demanded that he be escorted back to his cell.

“I don’t accept Judge Ky Rithy anymore . . . Prison guards! Please bring me back to prison,” Sok said, before being allowed to go the waiting room.

After Sok and his lawyer, Choung Choungy, had left, Tech and Prosecutor Sieng Sok reminded the court that the accused must be present, asking the judge to “control the activities of Kim Sok – he is so defiant”.

Upon returning, this time without his lawyer, Sok emphatically tore up his reasoning for why Hun Sen should be made to appear, then stuffed the shredded paper in both ears to prevent himself from hearing.

Discussion of the original complaint lasted just 10 minutes, during which the court played the contested one-minute extract of Sok’s radio interview.

Hun Sen’s lawyer Tech then requested the maximum sentence for Sok.

“What Kim Sok said affected the innocence of the CPP, and we demand compensation of 2 billion riel [about $500,000] for that,” Tech said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Political analyst Kim Sok is escorted into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his trial on defamation and incitement charges yesterday. Hong Menea

Meanwhile, Prosecutor Sieng Sok claimed the accused intended to incite chaos throughout society. Incitement carries a prison sentence of up to two years.

While being escorted out, Sok questioned the independence of the court, saying it “only follows the dirty words of Hun Sen”.

Tech, however, said allowing the prime minister to appear before the court would put its independence under scrutiny. “There must be a lot of security guards, and they would accuse him of putting pressure on the court, making the court shake,” he said.

Reached by phone, defence lawyer Choungy likened Sok’s imprisonment to the case of two men who were found innocent of slaying union leader Chea Vichea after spending more than five years in jail.

Meanwhile, legal expert Sok Sam Oeun yesterday criticised the broad interpretation of defamation and incitement in Cambodian courts. “Everything is incitement if you speak,” he said. “Incite to do what? Incite to kill? Incite to shoot? . . . If you don’t incite someone to a specific action, I don’t think it’s incitement.”

Incitement and defamation charges have been brought repeatedly in cases many deem political in nature. Earlier this month, a woman was charged with incitement after she alleged in a video uploaded to Facebook that the premier was masterminding the murder of Ley.

Political analyst Meas Ny said these lawsuits formed part of a strategy to keep analysts fearful. “There are enough reasons for us to be afraid,” he said.

He said there were “a lot of clues” that there was no independent investigation into Ley’s killing – meaning there was also no proof of anyone masterminding it, leaving room open for such lawsuits.

“[These lawsuits] are hard to justify,” he said. “The government often fears that we attack them or are part of the opposition, but in fact we don’t. We just want to ensure that the voice of the people really is heard.”

A verdict is due in Sok’s case on August 10.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Phnom Penh underpass opens to ease traffic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced a temporary opening of the 488m underpass at the Chaom Chao roundabout in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, which was recently completed to connect traffic from National Road 4 to Russian Federation Blvd. The move is to reduce

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial