Kem Sokha Wants to Move to Outskirts, Live ‘Simple Life’ as Senior Politician, Says Ally

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Kem Sokha plants a tree at Wat Pothivong in Prey Veng province’s Svay Antor commune on August 29, 2020, in this photograph posted to his Facebook page.

Kem Sokha has been looking to sell his Phnom Penh villa since 2020, said a close colleague, with plans to move to the city’s outskirts or to a different province.

A Facebook listing from Century 21 real estate brokerage listed a Toul Kork villa with a similar front gate and inner entrance, with a source close to Sokha saying on Monday that the former CNRP president had put up his house for sale. The listed price for the house is $2.4 million.

The embattled CNRP leader has been waiting for the resumption of his treason trial and is under court supervision, but is allowed to travel as long as he does not engage in political activity.

Meach Sovannara, a former opposition official and close ally to Sokha who diligently attended his trial hearings in 2020, said Monday night that the opposition leader told him in 2020 that he wanted to sell the Phnom Penh villa and move out of the city. Sokha had asked him if he knew anyone overseas who would be willing to buy the villa.

“Mr. president wants to sell and use the money to buy land for building a house in the outskirts of the city that has a good environment, doesn’t have traffic jams and to live a simple way of life as a senior politician,” Sovannara said.

He said that any remaining money would be used for Sokha’s living expenses, as he was now getting close to 70. Sovannara said the sale had nothing to do with Sokha’s court case and was a private matter.

Sokha and his lawyers, Chan Chen and Pheng Heng, could not be reached on Tuesday.

A Century 21 staffer earlier said the listing was genuine and a source close to Sokha said they were not sure why the opposition leader wanted to sell the villa.

Muth Chantha, who was head of Sokha’s cabinet, said on Tuesday that he did not know about the former CNRP president wanting to sell the villa, and refused to answer if it could be linked to his prolonged trial.

“We cannot comment on others’ personal matters. So, we have to respect the privacy of each person,” he said, refusing to answer if this potentially signaled Sokha’s retirement from politics. 

Sokha is still banned from political activity by the 2017 Supreme Court ruling dissolving the CNRP and preventing its senior members from participating in politics. Close allies of Sokha, such as Ou Chanrath and Yem Ponhearith, have started new political parties this year.

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