The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday questioned former opposition leader Kem Sokha over his decision to merge his Human Rights Party with the Sam Rainsy Party to create the now-defunct Cambodian National Rescue Party. The source of the funds which were used to conduct the party’s operations was also a subject of inquiry.
Asked by deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth, Mr Sokha denied the involvement of any foreign party funding CNRP’s operations.
“The budget was collected from party members and did not involve any foreign power,” Mr Sokha told the court, adding the creation of CNRP is legal and had been recognised by the Ministry of Interior.
Sann Chhuoy, one of the government lawyers, yesterday questioned Sokha’s decision to engage in a party merger with Sam Rainsy, which he deemed counter-intuitive to Sokha’s claims of wanting to uphold democracy and non-violence as Mr Rainsy had previously attempted to topple the government.
“Mr Sam Rainsy agreed to follow what was written in the CNRP statute which is to uphold non-violence and democracy and to promote free and fair elections,” said Sokha.
Read at court by another government lawyer Ly Chantola, the joint statement released following the party merger and the CNRP creation in July 2012 said: “The SRP and the HRP will unite in accordance with the Khmer people’s will in order to save Cambodia by bringing about political change and putting an end to a dictatorial power that serves destructive foreign interests.”
“Does the phrase ‘putting an end to a dictatorial power’ mean to topple the government?” asked Mr Chantola.
In response, Mr Sokha said, “To end dictatorial power does not mean to topple the regime. It means to change the current regime through democratic means which include public participation in a free and fair election. I did not enter into politics to engage in colour revolution. I believe in the power of elections.”
Meng Sopheary, one of Sokha’s lawyers, said during the trial his client had been firm with the lack of foreign involvement in the establishment of the CNRP.
“He clearly said the party merger stood for democracy and not colour revolution,” she said.
Sokha is facing treason charges over comments made in a 2013 video saying the US had been helping him push for regime change.