Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday issued an arrest warrant for political analyst Kim Sok, who fled to Thailand after Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested he could be arrested for failing to pay compensation owed from a defamation conviction after he failed to appear for questioning over a separate defamation case.
General Kieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said yesterday that police officials will carry out the court’s order.
“Police will make the arrest in accordance with the warrant,” Gen Sopheak said, declining to comment further.
The warrant was issued after Mr Sok failed to appear in court on Friday to be questioned over a separate defamation case for allegedly accusing the government of running a state-sponsored assassination squad.
“Search and arrest Kim Sok so he can be placed in jail,” Judge Leang Samnath said in the warrant.
Mr Hun Sen’s lawyer filed the latest defamation complaint against Mr Sok earlier this year while he was still in prison serving an 18-month jail term stemming from a separate defamation case for accusing the government of murdering fellow analyst Kem Ley.
Mr Sok completed his sentence late last month and walked free from prison, almost immediately drawing the ire of Mr Hun Sen after he criticised the Prime Minister’s initiative to create a council of all political parties that contested the national election to gather input and move the country forward together.
After his comments, Mr Hun Sen reminded Mr Sok that he had yet to pay compensation owed in the earlier defamation case and could therefore be arrested, leading to him fleeing to Thailand.
Y Sok Khy, director of the anti-transnational crimes department, declined to comment yesterday.
However, Mr Sok Khy was quoted in local media saying that Cambodian officials are seeking the help of Thai authorities to apprehend Mr Sok.
Ky Tech, a lawyer for the government, said yesterday that the arrest warrant was issued after Mr Sok failed to appear in court on Friday.
“The court has followed procedures after learning Kim Sok fled,” Mr Tech said.
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said that an MoU was signed by Thai authorities to extradite any criminals wanted in Cambodia.
“If Thai authorities decided to send him back, the international community would scrutinise both Thailand and Cambodia,” he said, noting that Mr Sok was only exercising his right to freedom of expression.