Mass Trial Resumes With Revelation About Bailed Defendant

3 min read
Phnom Penh Municipal Court in December 2021. (Ananth Baliga/VOD)
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Judges in a CNRP mass trial said testimonies showed that one of the defendants had a mental illness after neighbors and local officials, but not medical professionals, attested to the alleged condition.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court is hearing a fifth mass trial against 37 defendants for their alleged participation in former CNRP vice president Mu Sochua’s attempt to return to Cambodia in early 2021. The defendants, who are senior party leaders, members and activists, are facing plotting charges.

Thursday was the third hearing in the trial and kicked off with judge Ouk Reth Kunthea asking the clerk to check why Heng Sokleng, who has also been called Seng Sokleng during the trial, had been placed under court supervision by the investigating judge.

After a brief recess, the hearing resumed with court officials reading from five documents: one from a 13 Makara village chief in Battambang, one with 42 witnesses who were residents, two letters from a commune chief to the Ministry of Health and Phnom Penh court suggesting that Sokleng had a mental illness, and an investigating judge’s decision.

The same issue was raised during a prior hearing when former CNRP commune chief Khan Bunpheng was questioned about Sokleng and when the prosecution read out a phone transcript that only had Sokleng’s words. At the time, Bunpheng claimed that village residents knew that Sokleng had a mental illness.

At Thursday’s hearing, Bunpheng added that he did not want to speak to Sokleng and whenever Sokleng called the former commune chief would absent-mindedly say yes a few times while doing other work.

Bunpheng added that he knew of Sochua’s planned return to Cambodia but that he had nothing to do with it.

“I did not pay attention whether she will come or will not come … since the CNRP was dissolved on November 16, 2017, I became an ordinary person and I have a little business for livelihood,” he said.

Judge Reth Kunthea asked if Bunpheng had worked to gather supporters and activists for Sochua’s return, with the former commune chief saying, “I would like to make it clear that I have never invited even a single person to receive Mu Sochua.”

Questioning then turned to Voeung Samnang, a former CNRP activist who was deported from Thailand last year, who was quizzed about his social media accounts.

Samnang said he had only one account, where his name was spelled in English, but a Facebook post, which is part of the prosecution’s evidence, was from a different account. The evidence was from an account named “Voeung Samnang Rescue Phnom Penh.”

Prosecutor Seng Heang also asked Samnang if he knew Mu Sochua.

“I know Mu Sochua as I know Samdech Hun Sen too,” he said, using an honorific for the prime minister.

The trial is scheduled to resume on October 13.


Sam Rainsy
Former/acting president

Mu Sochua
Vice president

Eng Chhai Eang
Vice president

Tioulong Saumura
Former lawmaker

Ho Vann
Former lawmaker

Ou Chanrith
Former lawmaker

Men Sothavarin
Former lawmaker

Long Ry
Former lawmaker

Mao Vibol
Svay Rieng president

Sot Silat
CNRP supporter in South Korea

Khin Samorn
CNRP supporter in Canada

Chhun Vean
Former CNRP councilor in Siem Reap

Chham Sophorn
CNRP activist from Poipet

Khin Chamroeun
Former CNRP youth leader for Phnom Penh

Khlaing Bun Lay
Former CNRP councilor Banteay Meanchey

Nuth Rumduol
Former lawmaker

Tor Nimol
CNRP activist

Hay Vanna
CNRP activist in Japan

Phorn Phana
CNRP supporter in South Korea

Vann Narith
Former lawmaker

Sor Chandeth
Former SRP senator

Seng Meng Bunrong
CNRP youth activist

Matt Vanny
CNRP supporter in South Korea

Sum Seyha
Youth activist in Kampong Cham

Chhun Sithy
Former CNRP councilor in Pailin

Prak Sarom
CNRP Supporter in New Zealand

Ngim Nheng
Former lawmaker

Voeung Samnang
Former activist

Long Botta
Former lawmaker

Leng Sotheary
CNRP supporter in Canada

Khan Bunpheng
Former commune chief in Battambang

Heng Danaro
Former lawmaker

Kong Mas
CNRP youth activist

Ath Vichet
CNRP activist in Canada

Buth Sokunthea Thierry
CNRP supporter in France
Heng Sokleng
Oun Pov
Sources: VOD, Licadho, Facebook, Radio Free Asia, Human Rights Watch

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