The United States has urged the government to drop all charges against former CNRP leader Kem Sokha who was released on bail on Monday.
“Kem Sokha’s arrest in September 2017 was among the most significant democratic setbacks in Cambodia over the past year,” US Embassy spokeswoman Emily Zeeberg said in an email. “The US government has taken note of Mr Sokha’s transfer to ‘house arrest’, which falls far short of a full release, as well as the recent freeing of other political prisoners.”
“We continue to call on the government of Cambodia to drop all charges against Mr Sokha,” Ms Zeeberg added.
Mr Sokha spent a year behind bars on treason charges in Tboung Khmum province’s Trapeang Phlong prison over comments made in a 2013 video. In the footage, Mr Sokha said that the US had been helping him push for regime change in Cambodia.
Mr Sokha’s bail conditions ban him from making trips abroad and from meeting with former opposition officials or individuals, especially foreigners, linked to his treason case.
Mr Sokha was also confined to a four-block radius surrounding his home in Tuol Kork district’s Boeng Kak II commune.
The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court two months after Mr Sokha was jailed in September last year. The dissolution saw 118 of the party’s senior members barred from politics for five years.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the US should not meddle with the court’s decision to release Mr Sokha on bail.
“The US embassy spokeswoman is making a comment wishing the government to interfere in the court’s decision,” Mr Siphan said. “It is impossible for the government to request the court drop the charges.”
Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this week summoned a labour rights activist, a land activist and several NGO staffers to be questioned about their connection to Mr Sokha in relation to his treason case, said court spokesman Y Rin.
“We have just questioned them as witnesses,” Mr Rin said.
Borei Keila land activist Sar Sorn said yesterday that the court questioned her about her connection to Mr Sokha.
“I was asked if Kem Sokha or the US government funded our Black Monday campaign in 2016 when we rallied to push for the court to release the five Adhoc officials who were charged over their alleged involvement in Kem Sokha’s sex scandal,” Ms Sorn said. “I told the judge that I had no relation to Kem Sokha.”
She noted that the other witnesses included Thay Kimsan, former director of the rights group Licadho, and Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. Both could not be reached for comment yesterday.