Kem Sokha’s cabinet chief yesterday said the former CNRP leader has not been in contact with Sam Rainsy since Phnom Penh Municipal Court eased his bail restrictions.
“I would like to say Kem Sokha is following the law and is upholding a principle of non-violence,” Muth Chantha said following a meeting between Sokha and British Ambassador Tina Redshaw at Sokha’s residence. “He will not go against the law.”
Rainsy is wanted in the Kingdom for allegedly planning to overthrow the government during his failed November 9 return. He is also wanted after he was convicted of insulting the King and demoralising the armed forces.
Rainsy was recently spotted in Malaysia and Indonesia. He said he will still return to the Kingdom to restore democracy and human rights and demand Sokha’s freedom.
Sokha was arrested in September 2017 for allegedly colluding with the US to topple the government. He was charged with treason and the former opposition CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court two months later.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday eased Sokha’s restrictions after spending more than two years investigating his treason case. It said the decision was made after considering Sokha’s health and good behaviour over the past two years.
Sokha remains under court supervision, but can now leave the former confines of a four-block radius around his home and also hold meetings.
He is still banned from leaving the Kingdom, engaging in political activities and is obligated to appear when summoned by the authorities.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said though Rainsy was a co-founder of the CNRP, Rainsy walked a different path than Sokha.
“Rainsy’s decisions didn’t involve Kem Sokha,” Mr Chanrath said. “There is a Rainsy side and a Sokha side – they are different from each other.”
Mr Chanrath said there is hope for Sokha to receive full freedom because Prime Minister Hun Sen recently ordered Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to release former CNRP members and activists accused of supporting Rainsy’s return.
“We have seen a softened stance and I believe it will lead to resolving this political crisis,” he said. “This is the kind of good attitude that can ease this situation.”
Ambassadors of the United States, France, Germany, Australia, Japan and the European Union met Sokha earlier this week, while the British ambassador met Sokha yesterday. Swiss Ambassador Helene Budliger Artieda is scheduled to meet Sokha today.
Mr Chantha said Ms Redshaw discussed Sokha’s health and democracy in the Kingdom when they met yesterday.
“They discussed general issues such as help to develop the Kingdom,” he said. “They had not met for a long time.”
“We are building democracy,” Mr Chantha added. “She wanted to meet Kem Sokha but she couldn’t before because of his bail conditions.”
Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute, yesterday said ambassadors visiting Sokha is a sign Cambodia needs democracy.
“Kem Sokha, from the perspective of foreign diplomats, is a symbol of the opposition party in Cambodia,” Mr Vannarith said. “Cambodia needs a strong, responsible and resilient opposition party.”