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

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration