Land Minister Chea Sophara Sex Defamation Case in Supreme Court

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CPP official Kong Kheang photographed outside the Supreme Court on May 18, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

A ruling party official is facing a slew of charges brought by the Land Ministry after posting online a woman’s sexual allegations against minister Chea Sophara.

The case, which follows the official’s arrest in October, had an open bail hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday despite plaintiffs asking that it be a closed-door hearing.

“We ask his excellency the presiding judge to hold the hearing closed-door since this case involves an upper leader,” said a lawyer representing the Land Ministry.

Presiding judge Soeng Panhavuth, however, ruled the hearing was only a bail appeal and did not involve the facts of the case, and should remain public.

The hearing lasted less than an hour as prosecutor Duch Kimsan asked the Supreme Court to uphold lower courts’ decisions to deny bail for defendant Kong Kheang.

Kheang is facing five charges: defamation, false information of imminent damage, incitement to discriminate, insult against a public official, and causing public misapprehension of the discharge of public functions. The charges are variously punishable by a fine or jail time up to three years.

In October, Kheang, a CPP working group member, posted at least two videos raising serious allegations against Land Minister Sophara.

In one of two videos, Kheang said a woman had come to him crying and suicidal seeking his help and alleged that Sophara had committed sexual crimes against her and her daughter after lavishing them with gifts.

“With women, the high-ranking and powerful hurt them however they want. My chest is heavy, and I am so sick and tired of it, and I must force myself to make this video,” Kheang said at the time. “Whatever happens, I will not save his face, and I must show his face to the public.”

In a second video, Kheang alleged that Sophara was having an affair with another woman who inappropriately collected money from ruling party members.

Sophara hung up on a reporter at the time.

During the Wednesday hearing, Kheang turned his back on the allegations.

“I regret very much that I committed this mistake because I trusted a bad person,” Kheang said.

He added that he needed to work to earn money to support his family, including a sick parent. He had written a letter to apologize for his mistake, he said.

A decision on the bail appeal is expected June 3.

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