Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN rapporteur denied prison meeting with Kem Sokha

UN rapporteur denied prison meeting with Kem Sokha

UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith on Tuesday commenced a 10-day visit to Cambodia.
UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith on Tuesday commenced a 10-day visit to Cambodia. Pha Lina

UN rapporteur denied prison meeting with Kem Sokha

UN special Rapporteur Rhona Smith’s request to meet with jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha in a Tbong Khmum prison was rejected by an investigating judge who cited “important tasks” that needed to be completed before outsiders were allowed such access.

The rejection, which was issued on Wednesday, came days before Sokha’s bail hearing at the Supreme Court today, with a court official saying that the former Cambodia National Rescue Party president will not appear for the court.

The special rapporteur for human rights is on a bi-annual visit to the Kingdom and requested to meet Sokha, with a permission letter sent by the local UN human rights office. But Investigating Judge Ky Rithy rejected the reques saying only Sokha’s legal team and family were allowed to meet him.

“For other persons, permission to meet [him] can be allowed only after the judge had completed some important tasks,” the letter reads, referring to evidence collection and ongoing investigation into the case.

In a short response, Smith rebuffed the rejection. “I am disappointed that my request to meet with Kem Sokha was rejected by the investigating judge. I reiterate that the authorities should not deny me access to any detainees,” she said in an email.

Smith’s visit coincides with the harshest crackdown in Cambodia in recent memory, affecting the opposition, civil society and media outlets, with Sokha jailed on “treason” charges and his CNRP forcibly dissolved.

Pheng Heng, Sokha’s lawyer, said it was critical for Smith to meet Sokha to accurately assess the Kingdom’s human rights situation.

“If she only has information from one side, or has not met all the relevant parties, I believe that her report will be incomplete,” she said.

After appearing before the Appeal Court last month, where his bail application was rejected, Sokha will not make the trip from Tbong Khmum to Phnom Penh for today’s hearing, according to court Prosecutor Ouk Kimsith.

“Kem Sokha will not be brought to this hearing because the Supreme Court only decides on the legalities of the case, so the presence of the accused is not important,” he said.

Meng Sopheary, another member of Sokha’s legal team, said no matter the legal procedures, it was always preferable to have the defendant present in court. “The court should invite him to take part. If he declines, it is his right,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • Woman who scaled Cambodia’s three highest peaks eyes Everest

    One of the very few Cambodian women to have successfully reached the Kingdom’s three highest peaks is now eyeing Malaysia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, and potentially even the world’s tallest straddling Nepal and China, Mount Everest. While in many Western countries it

  • Cheap, clean and efficient: The firm leading Cambodia’s solar revolution

    Sitting in her bright and airy 17th floor office, Rithya Menon, Okra Smart Solar’s lead firmware engineer, checks the frequently updating data telling her everything about how well their community services are operating. “I saw in the data that there was a problem with

  • PM Hun Sen: Cambodia will not die without EBA scheme

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday reiterated that he would not be overly concerned if Cambodia had its access to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) scheme withdrawn because the Kingdom would not die without it. Hun Sen was speaking to factory workers in