Briefs: Court Delays Mass Trial, NEC Relents on Vote Document

3 min read
Seng Chan Theary greets supporters after a hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 4, 2022. (Ouch Sony/VOD)

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court delayed a mass-trial hearing against CNRP members and supporters because a defense lawyer had come in contact with a Covid-19 case at PJ Prison.

The prisons department could not confirm the case at PJ Prison and only said there were a few cases in prisons across the country, but would not provide details.

CNRP supporter Seng Chan Theary was expected to present her defense on Tuesday, but her lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, requested the hearing be postponed because he had been exposed to a Covid-19 case at PJ Prison on February 9, said judge Ros Piseth in court.

“In order to follow Covid-19 preventive measures, time should be given for lawyer Choung Chou Ngy to follow up the disease in line with the Covid-19 law,” Piseth said.

While the prosecution quickly agreed, another defense lawyer, Sam Sokong, lamented the prolonged trail. The trial started in 2020 and was suspended last year before being resumed in November.

Nuth Savna, a spokesperson for the prisons department, said he was unaware of the case at PJ nor was he aware of Covid-19 cases in prisons amid a recent spike in infections.

“[It] is less; one or two cases among newcomers,” he said, referring to new inmates. “There must be [cases] but it is just minor cases. We already know it is everywhere. When there are infections in the community, [prisons] must have it. It is like a cold.”

Savna said around 80 percent of the 38,000-strong prison population had been given a third dose of Covid-19 vaccinations.

— Ouch Sony

NEC Relents on Changes to Vote Reporting

Six political parties welcomed the National Election Committee’s decision to retain Form 1102, which is used to report results to poll observers at voting stations.

The NEC had proposed scrapping the disclosure of Form 1102 at polling places, according to a committee press release from January 6, and instead proposed sharing the information at commune election offices. However, six parties said sharing vote counts at the polling booth would maintain transparency in the process.

Hang Puthea, a spokesperson for the NEC, said the body had decided to keep the old procedures but would not say why.

Ny Sophoan, a spokesperson for the Cambodia Reform Party, said the decision would ensure there were no disputes during the counting process.

“[Six] parties have advocated together and are happy that the NEC has amended this point as we have demanded,” he said.

— Morm Moniroth

Myanmar Pulls Out of ‘Hybrid’ Asean Foreign Ministers Meet

Myanmar said it was not sending any representation to an Asean meeting in Phnom Penh this week, after the same meet was purportedly delayed last month because of indecision over whether to allow the junta-led country to participate.

The Myanmar Foreign Ministry posted on Facebook that it would not even designate a non-political representative for the meeting and disagreed with some Asean countries who were pushing for its exclusion from joint events.

Asean as a bloc had decided to limit Myanmar’s representation at Asean meeting till the country made progress on a five-point consensus involving cessation of violence and access for humanitarian efforts. Prime Minister Hun Sen has been pushing for Myanmar’s inclusion, even making a controversial trip to the country in January.

“Despite efforts made by the ASEAN Chair and Myanmar to promote cooperation in ASEAN, it is regrettable to see the return of the decision made last year which Myanmar in principle is unable to accept,” the Facebook post reads.

Cambodia announced last week that the “hybrid” summit had been moved to Phnom Penh. The ministry’s Facebook page on Tuesday said the foreign ministers of Singapore and Laos would attend in person.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Chum Sounry said on Tuesday that Brunei and Thailand would attend online, Myanmar would not be present, and the remaining countries would attend in person.

— Ananth Baliga

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated that Brunei would attend in person.

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