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Kem Sokha grilled over foreign relationships

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
Former CNRP leader Kem Sokha. KT/Siv Channa

Former opposition leader Kem Sokha said yesterday in court that he had fostered diplomatic ties with many foreign countries that were friends of Cambodia, not just with the United States.

During yesterday’s trial, Sokha’s lawyers showed images of him meeting dozens of world leaders when he became first vice president of the National Assembly between 2014 and 2015.

He was a senator from 1999 to 2002 and he was specifically questioned in court over how he had run his office between 2007 and 2012.

Sokha was also pressed to answer why he built up ties with the US.

He responded by saying that he had worked on diplomatic relations with foreign countries for the sake of the country and people.

“I am wondering why prosecutors and judges have only questioned me about the United States,” he said. “My international communication was not only with the United States but also with other nations with links to Cambodia.”

He said that he openly met with representatives of European and Asian countries.

“I did not do secret work or get orders from other countries,” Sokha said.

One of Sokha’s legal team, Meng Sopheary, said that her client’s relationship with foreign countries was to build and promote democracy in the Kingdom.

“My client did not only build relations with the US but also with other countries to strengthen democracy and promote human rights in Cambodia,” she said.

But government lawyer Key Tech, speaking outside the courtroom, said that Sokha’s lawyers have not proved that their client is innocent.

“Our team thinks that the evidence is meaningless and Kem Sokha should not be exonerated because of pictures showing him shaking hands with a Chinese president and a Japanese prime minister,” Mr Tech said.

“They dare not show pictures that he [Sokha] sat and discussed secrets and devised a plot with a foreign state,” he said. “We already have that evidence and we will disclose it to incriminate him.”

Another of Sokha’s defence lawyers, Pheng Heng, told reporters after the trial that his client had nothing to hide.

“We want to prove that our client did not conspire secretly with the United States. He met with all ambassadors,” Mr Heng said.

Ly Chantola, one of the government lawyers, engaged in a heated argument with Sokha, quizzing him over the $100,000 financial statement submitted to the Interior Ministry in 2012. Mr Chantola said that there was a lack of detail in the document, especially regarding election campaign expenses.

In response, Sokha retorted: “Why don’t you ask the Interior Ministry?”

Mr Chantola then asked a presiding judge to order Sokha not to retort when he was asked questions by government lawyers.

The trial will resume on February 5.

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