Published: Fri, January 17, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Controversial Treason Trial Begins in Cambodia for Opposition Leader

Controversial Treason Trial Begins in Cambodia for Opposition Leader

Opposition leader Kem Sokha was charged with treason on Wednesday, more than two years after he was arrested in what is widely seen as a politically motivated prosecution. They were closely observed by a strong police force.

Reporters from Reuters and the Phnom Penh Post said they had been told there were no more seats available.

Just like many of his fellow countrymen, the 68-year old Cambodian believes that Sokha didn't commit any crime. Should it decide to pull out, tariffs on Cambodian goods could be reintroduced by mid-year.

About two months after his arrest, the Supreme Court of Cambodia dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 of the party's officials from political activities.

"Over the past three years, the Cambodian authorities have weaponised the criminal justice system as a means of eliminating the CNRP".

"Kem Sokha's charges must be voided and the rights of CNRP members must be fully respected to enable them to freely participate without discrimination in Cambodia's political life once again", he stated.

The opposition leader was first detained in a remote prison then placed under house arrest before his bail conditions were relaxed in November previous year. Just over two months ago the house arrest was lifted, likely as a result of worldwide pressure on the Cambodian government. During the speech, Sokha tells supporters that he has received information from advisers from the USA in relation to effecting a change in the political leadership of Cambodia. The video has been presented as the main evidence that the opposition leader plotted to overthrow the government.

"After watching the short video of Kem Sokha speaking during the trial, we can confirm that it was authentic, but it was edited and the original context is missing", she said.

The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO) said in its open letter on Thursday that the court should ensure the trial "is open to the public, independent media outlets and the full participation of civil society organizations".

Cambodia, a constitutional monarchy with a population of over 16 million, operates as a parliamentary democracy.

Among them was Sok Yoeung, 74, who said he supported the opposition for about 20 years. "I think the court is trying to make it look good, but the court is following direct orders of the government".

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Journalists complained that only a "few" were allowed into the court.

"The court has the excuse that the court room is too small and that there's limited space for people to sit".

The government wants to put on a show for the worldwide community, Naly Pilorge, director of the human rights organisation Licadho, said.

He said there were a total of 27 witnesses in the case, but only 12 had appeared in court on Wednesday, with the other 15 absent without clear reasons.

Rong Chhun, a union leader and former member of Cambodia's National Election Commission (NEC), told RFA he had traveled to the courthouse on Wednesday to monitor the trial but was forced to stand outside. Deciding on whether to cut Cambodia's preferential trade status over its human rights record. He remained in jail for a year and was put under house arrest later on. The crackdown also lead to the shutdown of multiple media outlets and increasing pressure on NGOs.

"[But] if this is a show for the global community, then the court and the government must hold this trial with more transparency than usual".

A USA legislation which was approved on July 16 called for his release and also the reinstatement of the dissolved CNRP and restoration of its seats in the parliament.

Kem Sokha's trial continued on Thursday morning and was expected to run every Wednesday and Thursday. It's the trial of the CNRP.

He said the trial would continue for as long as both sides needed to clarify the facts. But it's important to show our support.

"Kem Sokha is innocent and needs to be acquitted". He has accepted to bear all the consequences, to give hope to democracy.

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