Dirty Politics and Sex

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For politicians, sex scandals have always been a tool used for political gain.
 
If you cannot be faithful to your wife, how could you be faithful to your political commitments, opponents ask?
 
Bill Clinton, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and lately Denis Baupin – a vice-president of France’s National Assembly no less – and many others have had their fair share of sex scandals.
 
From consentual affairs to harassments and rapes, they all ended up facing the consequences, which in most cases cost them their political careers.
 
In Cambodia, Sam Sary, Sam Rainsy’s father and Cambodia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom in the late 1950s, had many affairs with his female servants until one of them, Iv Eng Seng, broke her silence and filed a report with the London police. The end result was his posting as ambassador was revoked.
 
So the question on everyone’s lips now is what could happen to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) acting leader Kem Sokha? Maybe he and his lieutenants and supporters have already thought about it and maybe the consequences are more than he or the party could handle. Perhaps that’s why he adopted a policy of saying nothing and ignoring attempts to investigate the alleged affair.
 
The scandal he’s now involved in broke when a set of voice recordings from phone conversations allegedly between him and his mistress were put online. In those recordings, listeners could hear there was a clear relationship and sexual affair between the alleged mistress and a man whose voice sounded like the opposition party’s vice-chairman, Mr. Sokha.
 
Although there is no expertise to confirm it was Mr. Sokha’s voice in the recordings, and despite numerous denials from Mr. Sokha, it’s easy for people to believe that it is his voice, and that may have been enough for the ruling party to capitalize on the situation and try to end his political career.
 
Politicians would do the same in any part of the world – political games are the same the world over, just with different actors. In the case of the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton affair, the world’s press happily jumped in and were quickly followed by the whole legislature, which prepared an impeachment.
 
As for Mr. Sokha’s sex scandal, the local media had a field day, but the so called “free press” seemed to be not very interested and played it down. The ruling party opted to play tough and the case has ended up in the courts. There’s no doubt it’s dirty politics, but which country doesn’t have its share of this?
 
The voice on the leaked recordings was confirmed to be Khom Chandaraty’s – an employee of a hair salon Mr. Sokha used to visit – by Ms. Chandaraty in her first testimony under oath. Rights group Adhoc became involved and it is alleged they tried to help her cover the whole thing up. Those allegations remain to be proved.
 
Adhoc’s involvement was a bit unfortunate as they may have unwittingly crossed a line in their efforts to help the alleged mistress, Ms. Chandaraty.  As the scandal developed and took new twists and turns, many Cambodians were shocked at the revelations, be they true or not, and the whole thing took on a new dimension.
 
It was a jackpot for the ruling party because Mr. Sokha refused to take any responsibility and kept trying to avoid the issue in public.
 
Perhaps a good lawyer would have advised him to show up in court and speak the truth, because no actual crime had been committed. The monogamy law does not apply as it gives the lawful wife the possibility of laying charges or not.
 
But it goes without saying that for most women, seeing a husband’s secret affairs made public is intolerable.
 
However, some women have tended to stay quiet when their politician husbands have been involved in sex scandals. Hilary Clinton was a good example, and Mrs. Sokha has remained quiet.
 
According to a small survey, a majority of activists on both sides of politics as well as ordinary people do not really care about Mr. Sokha’s extra-marital activities.
 
A good spin doctor should have advised Mr. Sokha to come forward and face these issues and keep the NGOs out of it.
The Clinton-Lewinsky affair was a good example of a well-managed sex scandal. Mr. Clinton avoided impeachment by facing the truth.
 
However, Mr. Sokha’s choice to not show up at the court was a poor move. Mr. Sokha had broken no laws, but by not showing up when summoned, it gave the court a legal basis to take action against him, according to article 538 of the Penal Code, a breach of the law which probably will lead to his parliamentary immunity being waved.
 
Some questions must be asked. Would the image of Mr. Sokha as a martyr serve his party’s purpose? Would the world really care if an opposition leader is involved in a sex scandal?
 
The case of opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia should be enough to prove that political martyrs don’t work. He was charged over a sodomy scandal and has remained in prison for years.
 
As for the opposition CNRP, now that the court has not hesitated to detain a member of parliament and is looking to put opposition leader Sam Rainsy in jail, will Kem Sokha’s case really make any difference? Only time will tell.

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