Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday met with Canadian Ambassador Donice Pottie at the Peace Palace and clarified the ongoing treason case against Kem Sokha to her after she expressed concern over his detention.
His explanation to the ambassador prompted a former CNRP lawmaker, and an academic, to express opinions that Mr Sokha’s case may soon go to trial and if found guilty, Mr Hun Sen may request a pardon for Mr Sokha from King Norodom Sihamoni.
Mr Sokha was arrested in September 2017 after the authorities accused him of colluding with the United States to topple the government. His arrest led to the Supreme Court dissolving the CNRP.
Mr Sokha was released on bail in September last year and placed under court supervision. He is banned from making trips abroad or leaving a four-block radius surrounding his home in Tuol Kork district.
Sry Thamrong, minister attached to the Prime Minister, said Ms Pottie expressed concern to Mr Hun Sen over Mr Sokha’s detention.
“She expressed concern regarding the issue of the former opposition party and the detention of Kem Sokha,” Mr Thamrong said. “In response, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Kem Sokha is not detained, but has been placed under court supervision and the investigation into his case is still ongoing.”
“Once the investigation ends, the court will conduct a trial and we will see – we will look into other possibilities,” Mr Hun Sen added, as quoted by Mr Thamrong.
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday interpreted “look into other possibilities” to mean that if the court finds Mr Sokha guilty, Mr Hun Sen may seek a pardon for him.
“I feel that Prime Minister Hun Sen has softened his political stance. His remarks give hope for a political resolution and possible Kem Sokha release,” Mr Chanrath said. “It is a positive sign for Kem Sokha after strong pressure from the international community.”
Kim Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said Mr Hun Sen provided hints of Mr Sokha’s fate during the meeting with the Canadian ambassador.
“During the meeting with the Canadian Ambassador, Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a clue of Kem Sokha’s fate,” Mr Phea said. “Kem Sokha’s case is still one of the issues linked to the possible removal of Cambodia’s EBA status.”
“The most important thing is to speed up Kem Sokha’s court case by moving forward with the trial and issuing a verdict,” he added. “After the verdict, the next procedure is the exit. I think the best exit is if they can all win together.”
Mr Phea said all parties must be patient and express goodwill so Mr Sokha can have a positive outcome. He noted that supporters of the former opposition party should not pressure the government to release Mr Sokha because it is against the law.
“It ends after Kem Sokha’s verdict is announced. Kem Sokha is not going to appeal,” Mr Phea added. “So after that, Prime Minister Hun Sen could request the King to pardon Kem Sokha.”