Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness in Sokha case fails to appear at court

Witness in Sokha case fails to appear at court

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sia Phearum speaks during a meeting in Phnom Penh in 2015. Photo supplied

Witness in Sokha case fails to appear at court

Sia Phearum, the former executive director of the Human Rights Task Force, refused to appear as a witness at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for ex-Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Kem Sokha’s case, on claims he does not trust the court system.

Phearum was summonsed by Investigating Judge Ky Rithy, to be questioned as a witness. However, he failed to appear and instead criticised the judicial system in the Kingdom for lacking independence and following orders from the government.

“I am not interested in the summons because I think the court is just a puppet which follows the orders of politicians. There is no independence as an institution,” he said via Facebook Messenger from the US, where he now lives.

Asked why he was summonsed in Sokha’s case when he was just an NGO director, Phearum avoided the question and instead said: “An NGO does its work with independence and does not support any political party.”

Phearum is one of eight witnesses Rithy summonsed. In February, Chhim Phalvorun, Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) spokesman and former staffer at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, appeared for questioning.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said last week that three witnesses had appeared for questioning, with two appearing last Friday, although he did not name them.

Rithy and Sophana could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Sokha was arrested last September at his home in Phnom Penh and charged with “treason” after a video emerged of a speech he gave in Australia in 2013, where he talked about the role of democratic grassroots movements in overthrowing regimes at the ballot box, and the political advice he received from the US.

If he is found guilty, he faces up to 30 years in jail.

Phearum blamed Prime Minister Hun Sen for Sokha’s arrest and claimed the latter feared Sokha’s and ex-CNRP President Sam Rainsy’s popularity, and wanted to clear the way of any challengers.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Phearum did not appear because he is guilty, and that he considered the comparing of popularity totally absurd.

“Hun Sen entered the political arena at a young age to promote peace, but convict Rainsy entered politics not for the nation, but to seek revenge on the monarchy for calling his father a traitor since 1959. So the two personalities have different levels of political wisdom,” he said.

Sam Sary, Rainsy’s father, was a former top government official and ambassador to England in the 1950s who fell out of favour with then-Head of State Prince Norodom Sihanouk and fled Cambodia when his name was linked to an alleged coup plot.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Angkor Beer, 30 Years of Prestige and Still Counting

    Let’s celebrate 30 years of prestige with Angkor Beer. In this 2022, Angkor Beer is 30 years old and has been staying with Cambodian hearts in all circumstances. Head of core beer portfolio, EmYuthousaid, “We have been with Cambodians for three decades now. We, ANGKOR Beer, pride

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,