The opposition CNRP yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to jailed leader Kem Sokha amid threats of dissolution from Prime Minister Hun Sen for continuing to defend a “traitor”.
Mr Sokha was last week charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with treason for conspiring with a foreign power. The offence is punishable by 15 to 30 years in jail.
Mr Hun Sen has threatened to dissolve the CNRP if the party keeps protecting Mr Sokha, whom he has branded a puppet of the US.
“Traitors cannot be tolerated,” Mr Hun Sen on Monday.
“If a political party continues to protect this traitor, this is also treasonous. If treason was conspired by the whole party that party could be dissolved under the law on political parties.”
Speaking at a press briefing at the party’s headquarters yesterday, chief whip and lawmaker Son Chhay responded to Mr Hun Sen’s comments.
“His Excellency Kem Sokha was imprisoned, but the court has not yet found him guilty and according to Article 38 of the constitution, he is still innocent so he is still president of the CNRP,” Mr Chhay said, noting all CNRP members still supported him and would fight for him.
“I believe that Samdech Prime Minister has known the law well”, and “so His Excellency Kem Sokha is still innocent and we members of the CNRP have to protest and protect him,” Mr. Chhay added.
The case against Mr Sokha is based on video footage published by the Australia-based news outlet CBN, in which he speaks of being tutored by the US to lead regime change in Cambodia.
The video was deemed a “red-handed” crime, dispelling Mr Sokha’s parliamentary immunity and allowing police to arrest him.
The National Assembly on Monday held a special session, which the opposition CNRP boycotted, and voted to allow the court to continue its case against Mr Sokha.
The video appeared on the government-aligned Fresh News website after being shared by a Facebook user that has been “leaking” damning information against the opposition.
Fresh News has since published further leaks form the Facebook user, pointing the finger at four senior CNRP officials for allegedly being involved in the conspiracy to work with a foreign power to invoke regime change in Cambodia.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said yesterday all actions being taken against Mr Sokha had followed the rule of law.
“All actions against him are of his own cause, because he has committed crimes along with his officials,” he said.
Political analyst Meas Ny said the dissolution of the CNRP would cause havoc in Cambodia and probably would not occur.
“I think it is psychological warfare to intimidate the CNRP,” Mr Ny said.
Mr Ny said the party’s demise would then require the National Assembly to be dissolved, along with the National Election Committee.
“This would lead to too much pressure from the international community, possibly even sanctions,” he said.