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Embassy slammed over Kem Sokha comment

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn. KT/Mai Vireak

The Foreign Affairs Ministry on Saturday rebuked the United States embassy for saying former opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested unjustly and noted that the remark was undiplomatic and disrespectful to Cambodia’s sovereignty.

The US embassy on Friday posted a message on its Facebook page saying Mr Sokha, who is currently on bail as his treason charges progress, was arrested unjustly.

“Did you know Kem Sokha has now been in detention for nearly 18 months? That’s 530 days of captivity. He is an innocent man, being held unjustly under false pre tenses. There is no evidence against him, and no trial date has been set. No evidence. No trial. No justice,” it said.

Mr Sokha was arrested on treason charges in September 2017 for allegedly colluding with the US to topple the government through a colour revolution.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lashed out at the US embassy, saying it made a biased remark in order to mislead the public.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expresses grave concerns over such a conduct, and categorises the move as undiplomatic and disrespectful to the sovereignty of Cambodia,” the statement said.

The Ministry has also called on the US embassy to respect the law and not to meddle in the Kingdom’s internal affairs.

“Cambodia always respects the sovereignty of other nations and has not commented on any disgraceful scandal of any senior officials and politicians of any country,” the statement said.

“The step taken by the US embassy in this biased direction runs counter to the ongoing efforts of the two nations in improving the bilateral relationship for shared interest of the two countries and peoples,” it added.

The US Embassy spokeswoman Emily Zeeberg said in an email that the US has a responsibility to see that democracy and human rights are respected in Cambodia as a signatory to the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

“Unfortunately, the Cambodian government is not honouring its obligation under the Paris Peace Accords to protect human rights and democracy,” Ms Zeeberg said.

“Kem Sokha has been accused of conspiring with the United States to overthrow the government, which is absurd and false. So the Cambodian government has involved us directly in this,” she said. “Cambodia cannot have a productive relationship with the United States until this is resolved properly and respectfully.”

Sok Touch, president of Royal Academy of Cambodia, said in a public forum on Friday that treason charges against Mr Sokha were based on laws and evidences.

Mr Touch said that Mr Sokha’s release, based on calls made by the US or the European countries, will violate the Kingdom’s sovereignty.

“If [Prime Minister] Hun Sen releases Sokha, that means he violates the country’s sovereignty,” he said. “The law is there, and we must implement it. Mr Hun Sen is an executive body, not a judicial body.”

One of Mr Sokha’s lawyers, Meng Sopheary, yesterday said the court should speed up the investigation or drop the charges against her client, if there is no sufficient evidence.

“Mr Sokha is clearly innocent. He did not do anything wrong,” Ms Sopheary said. “The court should drop the charges against him and let him pursue his medical treatment overseas.”

During her latest visit to her client, Ms Sopheary said Mr Sokha relayed a message to his supporters saying that he did not support further problems caused by politicians.

“He [Mr Sokha] wants Cambodians to reunite and stop fighting each other in order to restore the country,” she said.

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