United States urges Cambodia to open politician's treason trial to media

Clay Curtis
January 16, 2020

Sokha was head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party when he was arrested in September 2017 on the basis of an old video showing him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from United States pro-democracy groups.

Sokha was arrested in 2017 and his party dissolved ahead of widely criticised elections the following year - leaving the CPP to canter to victory virtually uncontested.

Hun Sen's federal government continued to forbid the resistance, taking all 125 seats in the 2018 political election, making Cambodia a de-facto one event state. Cambodia's courts are considered to be under government influence.

"The government should cut their losses by dismissing the allegations against him, but clearly Prime Minister Hun Sen decided instead to pull the proverbial beef from Kem Sokha for the courage to challenge it". Just $5 a month.

Journalists have reportedly been barred from the court room while some were told they were not even allowed to stand outside the court.

"This video isn't complete, the content is out of context, it has been edited".

The morning session was occupied by legal formalities as evidence was introduced for the trial.

"Kem Sokha will be the victim of a staged trial on completely bogus treason charges", said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International said authorities "have not presented a shred of credible evidence to support a charge of treason".

"The non-existent crime was politically manufactured to further the suppression of the opposition party".

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The Garda Technical Bureau have been notified and the Office of the State Pathologist and the Coroner have been notified. The young man had been threatened with abduction, murder, and bodily dismemberment.

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha greets media at his home in Phnom Penh on Nov 13, 2019.

One reason the trial is drawing so much attention is that the European Union has threatened to impose sanctions on Hun Sen's administration.

Hun Sen has been in power for 35 years and has vowed to serve two more 5-year terms in office. In a case that has drawn condemnation from rights groups, and a move by longtime leader Hun Sen to crush political rivals. The EU, which accounts for almost half of Cambodia's exports, will decide in February whether or not to remove Cambodia from its Everything But Arms trade scheme over its crackdown on political expression.

It is not clear when a verdict will be announced and it could be months before the decision is made.

The EU is considering whether to suspend preferential duties on exports from the country. The EU accounts for nearly half of Cambodia's exports.

The EC last February launched a 12-month procedure to temporarily suspend the EBA scheme, which grants Cambodia duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union for all products except arms and ammunition.

The threatened action could badly hurt the Cambodia economy, which depends heavily on exports of low-priced textiles and footwear.

Sokha was jailed for more than one year and was released on bail in September 2018, but was subsequently placed under house arrest. The opposition party's co-founder, Sam Rainsy, has been in self-imposed exile since 2015, avoiding prison for a defamation charge along with a slew of other legal charges brought by the government.

Diplomats packed the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as the defendant, Kem Sokha, arrived, with only a few journalists allowed in to view the proceedings.

The arrest came when support for the CNRP increased among Cambodians, but the accusations stemmed from a speech that the opposition leader had delivered in Australia in 2013 and was publicly available for a long time.

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