Kem Sokha Asks to Travel Overseas for Summit Amid Treason Trial

2 min read
Former opposition leader Kem Sokha waves as he leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in an SUV after his trial resumed on January 19, 2022. (Ouch Sony/VOD)

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court rejected CNRP president Kem Sokha’s request to travel to Germany for a summit, with the prosecution saying there was no surety the politician would return to Cambodia.

The treason trial of Sokha continued on Wednesday as presiding judge Koy Sao made three rulings in court: He rejected Sokha’s request to travel overseas, accepted evidence from the prosecution and defense teams, and barred NGO leader Chak Sopheap, who is a witness in the case, from monitoring the trial.

Sokha’s lawyers said they had submitted a request for him to attend the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, Germany, on March 28 and 29. They said he had been invited to speak at the event and wanted the court to allow him to attend the meeting.

Defense lawyer Pheng Heng said his client would return to Cambodia after the event and that his attendance could benefit Cambodian society.

However, the prosecution objected to the travel exemption and prosecutor Plang Sophal said Sokha had the option of speaking at the event virtually. He said it was important to maintain Sokha’s court supervision and that there was no guarantee the CNRP leader would return to Cambodia.

“This is a charge of conspiring with a foreign power, which has a prison sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison and it affects the national security,” Sophal said.

“The fact that the accused was released on bail and has broad rights was already a rare thing when compared to other cases.”

Sokha said he sees the meeting as being useful for Cambodian society and that he will be able to speak with other leaders.

He said, “My presence is really important and this is what I have been told.”

As the hearing proceeded, judge Sao also accepted six pieces of evidence from the prosecution and another 28 from the defense team.

Government lawyers also objected to Chak Sopheap’s presence in the court. The head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights is listed as a witness in the trial and was also questioned during the investigation phase of the case.

Judge Sao ruled that Sopheap had to leave the courtroom and would not be allowed back to monitor the trial.

Sopheap posted on social media that she had yet to be summoned as a witness in the case and was observing the trial in her capacity as human rights NGO monitor.

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