Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday questioned former opposition leader Kem Sokha on whether he colluded with Sam Rainsy in an alleged plot to overthrow the government.
He was asked if he supported Rainsy’s call to supporters to rise up against the government during a speech in the United States in 2011.
Sokha is on trial for allegedly conspiring with the US to topple the government through a colour revolution.
The court yesterday also questioned him over the merger of his Human Rights Party with the Sam Rainsy Party to form the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2012.
Video footage of Rainsy’s speech in Lowell, Massachusetts, was also aired, where he appealed for the uprising and also urged the armed forces to turn their guns and oust Prime Minister Hun Sen.
During yesterday’s hearing, Sokha denied being involved with Rainsy’s attempt to overthrow the legitimate government of Cambodia, claiming he merged his party to form the CNRP in order to contest elections.
“I did not agree with Sam Rainsy’s call because it went against the CNRP statutes which enshrined the principle of non-violence,” he told the court. “What he [Rainsy] said is his business and I do not follow his path.”
Sokha reiterated his statement made during an earlier hearing that the CNRP was not formed to topple the government.
“It [CNRP] was not established to overthrow the government but to uphold human rights and democracy,” he said in reply to a question from deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth regarding the merger of the two parties.
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 over the treason charge.
Later in the hearing, co-deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal showed the court a joint statement made by Sokha and Rainsy after their parties merged to form the CNRP.
In the statement they said that following the merger, the new CNRP will take steps to “immediately rescue the nation”.
Mr Sophal asked Sokha to explain what they meant by rescuing the nation.
This prompted Sokha’s defence team to raise an objection that they were not given a copy of the document which the prosecution tendered in court.
The court then briefly adjourned for the prosecution to make a copy for the defence.
When the hearing resumed, the defence team claimed that the document given to them differed from the one tendered as evidence.
“The copy of the document [joint statement] we received is not stamped with an identification number, unlike the one tendered in the court,” Chan Chen, one of Sokha’s lawyers told Presiding judge Koy Sao.
“So we consider it as improper evidence and we want to have the proper one.”
Judge Sao replied that sometimes the stamps get blurred when documents are photocopied several times, adding that a new copy from the original will be given to the defence team when the trial resumes today.