Cambodia says trial of opposition leader Kem Sokha will go ahead — Radio Free Asia

The trial on charges of treason against Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha will continue as planned on January 19, with the government refusing to intervene, a government spokesman said on Friday.

Possibilities for Kem Sokha’s release could be considered when the trial ends, spokesman Phay Siphan told RFA. “In Cambodia, we can only have political solutions once the cases in court are closed.”

When Kem Sokha’s trial ends, Prime Minister Hun Sen could ask the King of Cambodia for amnesty if he does not believe the release of the former opposition leader will harm national security and public order, Phay Siphan said.

Kem Sokha’s lawyers were not available for comment Friday, but have previously said they want to see all charges dropped against him.

Kem Sokha, then president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested in September 2017 for an alleged US-backed conspiracy to overthrow Hun Sen’s government, which has ruled Cambodia for more than 35 years.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP two months later in a move that allowed Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party to win all 125 seats in parliament in an election in July 2018 and withdrew US sanctions and suspension of trade privileges with the EU.

In a speech to RFA, political analyst Seng Sary said there are now more options for the government to release Kem Sokha when his trial ends. “The court can acquit him of his charges and then politically rehabilitate him, or the court can convict him and then release him at Hun Sen’s request,” he said.

Dozens of CNRP members and supporters have been jailed for charges widely considered politically motivated and are caught up in a complicated legal process that has been slowed down by COVID-19 restrictions in the country.

On Friday, a court in Tboung Khmum province in central Cambodia released two CNRP activists after serving a year in prison accused of “incitement”. Following their release, Mak Sam An and Prau Chan Thoeun told RFA that they were arrested on January 14, 2021 after overseeing the trial of other CNRP activists in the municipal court in the capital Phnom Penh.

“I did not do anything wrong. I just went to listen to the hearing, but they arrested me anyway. The authorities violated my freedom. I can not accept this,” said Mak Sam Ath.

Am Sam Ath of the Cambodia-based rights group Licadho said the two CNRP members had simply exercised their rights and were unfairly convicted.

“We urge the authorities and the courts to respect the freedoms of the people and implement the laws properly instead of just charging them as they please. If they do not, people will criticize the authorities for making politically motivated arrests,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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