Former opposition leader Kem Sokha yesterday told the court that the Human Rights Party he formed was not established with the support of any foreign agency and he was not a puppet of foreign governments.
Sokha created HRP in 2007. It participated in the 2008 general election and won three National Assembly seats. HRP merged with the Sam Rainsy Party in 2012 to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017 after Sokha, who was its president, was jailed on a treason charge.
Sokha denied any foreign link after deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth questioned him about a Facebook post, under the name Kon Khmer, said the HRP was established with the support by Jackson Cox, the former president of the International Republican Institute in the US.
“I wish to verify that the Human Rights Party was founded by Khmer people to serve the interest of Khmer people and did not involve any foreigners,” Sokha told the court. “We formed the party to contest election and not to stage a colour revolution or a coup against the government. I am not a puppet of any foreigner.”
During yesterday’s trial, Sokha also had a heated argument with Mr Bunvisoth who showed a picture of his daughter Kem Monovithya with Mr Cox and asked about their relationship.
“It is immoral and insulting to take my daughter’s picture [with Mr Cox] and asked about their relationship,” Sokha said. “My daughter was not involved in establishing the Human Rights Party.”
“I will not answer questions about unsourced information posted on Facebook by Kon Khmer,” he added.
However, Presiding Judge Koy Sao yesterday ruled that the defendant Sokha has to answer all questions posed by the prosecutor in court.
“All evidence put forward during this trial is admissible,” he said.
Yesterday, Mr Bunvisoth also played video footage in court showing a speech by Sokha in the United States in 2013 after he received an award for promoting human rights and democracy.
“I am Kem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, and I am very happy that Americans want to see Khmer people having real freedom,” Sokha said in the clip. “The American government has provided a budget to me to teach people about democracy and human rights [in Cambodia] so far. As a result, America has helped educate Khmer people on these issues.”
Chan Chen, one of Sokha’s lawyers, told reporters after the trial that his client followed the law and took part in free and fair elections, adding that Sokha did not plan to overthrow the government.
“In fact, the Human Rights Party joined the 2008 national election and won three seats in the National Assembly,” he said. “I would like to state categorically that only Khmers were involved in establishing the Human Rights Party.”
The trial continues today.