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Summons, arrest tally grows around Sokha mistress bribery scandal

Rights activist leave a Prampi Makara district police station yesterday after they were detained earlier in the day for their involvement in a ‘Black Monday’ protest.
Rights activist leave a Prampi Makara district police station yesterday after they were detained earlier in the day for their involvement in a ‘Black Monday’ protest. Pha Lina

Summons, arrest tally grows around Sokha mistress bribery scandal

Yet another Adhoc official was summonsed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, while land activists were elsewhere detained for protesting the jailing of that official’s colleagues.

Adhoc’s head for women’s and children’s rights, Chhan Sokunthea, is expected to appear before court on August 24 and face questioning in the bribery case involving the alleged mistress of CNRP acting president Kem Sokha.

Sokunthea’s summons comes a week after Cambodian Center for Independent Media executive director Pa Nguon Teang was ordered to appear over the same case.

“Investigating judge Theam Chanpiseth, on August 12, summonsed [Sokunthea] for questioning as a witness related to four Adhoc human rights workers that are accused of bribing a witness,” court spokesman Ly Sophanna said in a text message.

Sokunthea and senior Adhoc officers could not be reached yesterday.

Earlier in the day, four Borei Keila activists were detained and later released by Prampi Makara district police for holding banners and shouting slogans as part of the so-called Black Monday campaign calling for the Adhoc staffers’ release. The staffers were jailed along with a CNRP local official and a former rights worker-turned-election official, though the allegations are widely seen as politically motivated.

The activists – Sar Sorn, Phork Sophin, Nat Sreynak and Nou Sat – were released after being warned by a court official that they would face a 100 million riel (about $25,000) fine and 18 months in jail if they participated in the campaign again.

“They ordered me to thumbprint all 10 fingers pledging to stop the Black Monday campaign. If I do it again, they will combine the cases from three districts and punish me,” Sophin said, referring to her two prior arrests for participating in the campaign.

She added that district police had used “violence” to break up their protest.

“The forces tore the banners, grabbed our flags and they dragged me and threw me into the [police] car,” she said. “I got bruises from that, and when I was getting out of the car, they again pulled my hair and slapped me.”

Prampi Makara Governor Lem Sophea and police chief Ros Sina said they were too busy to comment on the arrests.

Separately, two Boeung Kak lake activists – Tep Vanny and Bov Sophea – were arrested by Daun Penh district security guards Monday evening during a cursing ceremony for corrupt officials and had yet to be released as of press time.

Fellow activist Nget Thun said the duo were arrested by security guards who vastly outnumbered the small band of protesters.

Daun Penh district police chief Huot Chanyaran said he was busy “catching a robber” and could not comment, while District Governor Kouch Chamroeun could not be reached.

Phnom Penh Municipality Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng said the activists were arrested because they continued to defy the government’s ban on the campaign. “They cannot do whatever they want, because the country has laws, and we have told them many times already. But they do not obey,” he said.

Um Sam Ath, technical coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the contracts police have made activists sign are not legal documents, and simply a way of impinging on their freedoms.

Additional reporting by Ananth Baliga and Touch Sokha

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