Prosecution, Judges Link CNRP, Sokha to Veng Sreng Violence

2 min read
Kem Sokha outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on September 7, 2022. (Kem Sokha’s Facebook page)
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Prosecutors and judges in the Kem Sokha treason trial looked to link senior CNRP leadership to the violence during garment worker protests in 2014, though most of the time they linked Sam Rainsy or Mu Sochua to the violence, not Sokha.

The trial commenced its 55th hearing since Sokha was arrested in a midnight raid in September 2017 for alleged treason to overthrow the government with foreign powers. The CNRP was dissolved months later, crippling the country’s political opposition.

The prosecution on Wednesday played six short videos, often trimmed abruptly, from January 2014 showing protesters burning down a remorque, or a makeshift trailer tuk-tuk; an injured police officer; and protesters holding Molotov cocktails. None of the videos showed Kem Sokha in them.

Prosecutors used these videos to question Sokha about whether he was linked to the workers’ protests and ensuing violence on Veng Sreng Blvd. These questions were quickly rejected by Sokha.

“This case at Veng Sreng street had nothing to do with me and it was not my responsibility,” Sokha siad.

Judge Seng Leang then pointed to evidence from the case file and suggested CNRP leaders called on people to protest, and tried to link these activities and speeches to the Veng Sreng violence. The evidence he raised largely involved then-CNRP leaders Sochua and Rainsy.

Leang pointed to Sochua’s participation in worker protests about the minimum wage on January 1, 2014, and to Rainsy’s speech from 2011.

The judge also referred to a plea made by Sokha at Freedom Park during the post-election protests asking for donations to support the demonstrations, questioning whether this money had been used to support the violence at Veng Sreng.

Sokha said he was not even going to address the allegations. “I will not make an explanation and it was not related to me,” he said.

The judge continued to show photos of protesters at Veng Sreng, alleging they were CNRP activists. Sokha said he did not know who they were except for one person who he said maybe looked like Ir Channa, a CNRP activist who was arrested for plotting in May.

The court ended discussion over the January 2014 Veng Sreng violence and moved on to a crackdown on political demonstrations happening in parallel at Freedom Park, starting with violence between hundreds of anti-riot police and CNRP activists at Dragon Bridge near Wat Phnom on July 15, 2014 that led to the arrests of several politicians.

The trial will continue next week on September 14.

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