Kem Sokha’s Ambassador Meetings Questioned at Treason Trial

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Kem Sokha waves to his supporters as he leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 13, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
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Opposition leader Kem Sokha’s treason trial continued at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday morning with a focus on Sokha’s meetings with foreign ambassadors, according to his lawyer.

The treason case of Sokha, who was arrested in 2017 for allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to topple the government, is nearing its 50th session in a prolonged trial that has seen the prosecution and defense repeatedly debate video footage of mass protests.

Defense lawyer Chan Chen said after Wednesday’s hearing that the courtroom was shown a video of a protest at Freedom Park — a designated site for public rallies that was formerly located in central Phnom Penh near the night market, but which has since been pushed out to the city’s outskirts.

In the video, Sokha says that after leaving the protest he would be meeting with a foreign ambassador.

According to Chen, the prosecution repeatedly asked Sokha on Wednesday: “Which ambassador did you meet?”

Sokha’s reply was that every embassy in the country was “Cambodia’s friend, not enemy,” Chen said.

The lawyer said Sokha had refused to name a specific ambassador. “But I want to confirm that even if Kem Sokha or any Khmer citizen or any politician met any diplomats, it is not prohibited by law and not illegal,” Chen said.

Sokha has continued to regularly meet with foreign diplomats under court supervision amid his ongoing ban on political activities. On Wednesday, visiting U.S. official Daniel Kritenbrink also met with Sokha.

In recent weeks, Sokha has been distancing himself from his firebrand CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy during court proceedings in an apparent bid to appease Prime Minister Hun Sen, following a meeting between Sokha and Hun Sen at the funeral of the prime minister’s brother Hun San in May. Presiding judge Koy Sao said last month that cross-examinations about public demonstrations was the final part of the case file, and the trial should be nearing its end.

The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday next week.

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