Khmer News in En

Cambodian Court Denies Delay Request in Hun Sen Suit

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday denied Kim Sok’s request to delay a hearing so the social and political commentator could find time to hire an attorney in a $500,000 lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Court spokesman Ly Sophanna told RFA’s Khmer Service that Kim Sok’s motion to delay was denied without comment. The hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Hun Sen sued Kim Sok on Monday for “inciting social chaos” over accusations that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had orchestrated the July 2016 murder of popular political analyst Kem Ley. Hun Sen heads the CPP.

Kim Sok told RFA that he couldn’t find a lawyer quickly because the attorneys he contacted were shying away from the case, or they cost more than he could afford.

“There are two reasons that they can’t help me,” he said. “One is my case is a big, serious case, and two, I haven’t found a free lawyer to help me in this case yet, so that I am trying to earn more money in order to hire a proper lawyer.”

Kim Sok told RFA that what he said about the murder of Kem Ley was not an accusation, but a reflection of what many Cambodians believe.

“A person who is speaking the truth and wants justice is not a person who is creating social chaos,” he told RFA earlier this week. “A person who creates serious social chaos is a person who doesn’t respect the law.”

Cambodian courts are notorious for their lack of independence, and opposition politicians and critics of Hun Sen often find themselves before the courts on various charges.

A new case

Kim Sok’s legal problems are only likely to multiply as Hun Sen sued him a second time today. The second lawsuit is based on comments Kim Sok made to RFA when explaining the initial comments that got him into trouble. Hun Sen attorney Ky Tech said Hun Sen is demanding 10 million riel (U.S. $2,500) in the new suit.

He told RFA that if Kim Sok can’t pay then the court will take a measure against him.

“A person who does wrong, can’t just run away without compensation,” Ky Tech said. “If he doesn’t have money, the court will send him to jail.”

During a speech inaugurating a bridge along the Cambodian-Chinese border in Kandal province on Monday, Hun Sen said Kim Sok was inciting social chaos and threatened him with jail and monetary forfeiture.

“Maybe you will face two years in prison and have to pay all the money,” Hun Sen said. “Don’t even say you don’t have money. If you don’t have the compensation money, we will confiscate your house and sell it.”

Monks’ protest planned

Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Although authorities charged a former soldier, identified as Oueth Ang, with the killing, many in Cambodia don’t believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the man over a debt. The accused killer had never moved in the same circles as Kem Ley and had used the alias Chuop Samlap, which roughly translated means “meet to kill.”

Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.

On Dec. 23 the Phnom Penh court quietly closed its investigation into the case without revealing its findings.

Buddhist monk But Buntenh, founder of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice told RFA that he will walk with Kim Sok to Phnom Penh Court on Friday in a show of solidarity.

He told RFA that several other monks plan to join Kim Sok on the march from the Chroy Changva bridge area to the courthouse in a prayerful manner.

(Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.)

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European Union Ambassador Expresses Concern Over Cambodian Elections

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party is pushing ahead with its attempt to reign in other political parties ahead of elections this year despite concerns from the European Union’s ambassador to Phnom Penh.

“The EU believes that it is in the interests of Cambodia, and in the interests of long-term stability in the country, for there to be elections that command the confidence of the voters, and allow the people of Cambodia to choose whom they wish to represent them at commune an national level,” EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar said in a statement released Tuesday.

“In that context, we look to the authorities to ensure a political environment in which each opposition parties and civil society can all function freely,” Edgar added.

Edgar’s statement comes as the Cambodian National Assembly is poised to revamp the nation’s law on political parties just before the commune elections later this year and national elections in 2018.

According to local media reports, changes to the law would ban anyone convicted of a crime from standing as a candidate in elections, prohibit demonstrations after elections, and allow for the dissolution of political parties that “act illegally,” in an effort to prevent insurrections.

The change was spurred by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is head of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades.

Hun Sen has said he is seeking to ban politicians who have committed crimes from serving as party leaders or deputy leaders.

The threat of the changes has already led Hun Sen’s chief rival to resign as head of the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Sam Rainsy announced his resignation as CNRP president on Saturday, saying he didn’t want to destabilize the opposition.

Cambodian courts are notorious for their lack of independence and have ben by activists in Cambodia and international observers as doing Hun Sen’s bidding in handing out questionable rulings on his opponents.

Opposition politicians often find themselves before the courts on various charges, and Sam Rainsy is no exception as he has been on the losing end of several court cases brought by Hun Sen or other CPP members.

Sam Rainsy has been living in France since 2015 to avoid arrest in a defamation case brought by former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008. In October, Hun Sen ordered police, immigration, and aviation authorities to “use all ways and means” to prevent the opposition leader from returning to the country.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday Sam Rainsy that he doesn’t have any plans to nominate his wife or his children to replace him in the CNRP.

In the post, Sam Rainsy said a Phnom Penh Post story citing a letter to acting CNRP chief Kem Sokha suggesting that his wife Tioulong Saumura become the party’s leader was fake.

In contrast to Sam Rainsy’s rejection of nepotism accusations, Hun Sen has installed family members in important positions.

His second son, Hun Manith, was appointed as deputy head of the CPP’s internal monitoring committee, the Phnom Penh Posts reported, quoting a statement signed by the prime minister last week.

Hun Manith is general in the Cambodian armed forces and heads the Defense Ministry’s intelligence department. The monitoring committee is a powerful body within the CPP as it has the power to discipline members who are determined to have done wrong, and fire them.

Reported by Oung Sereyvuth for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Sam Rainsy Steps Down as Cambodia National Rescue Party Leader

In an effort to preserve a cohesive political opposition, Sam Rainsy stepped down as president of Cambodia’s major opposition party this weekend.

The move comes as Prime Minister Hun Sen and the National Assembly threatened to enact new laws that would enable the government to dismantle the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

On Saturday, Sam Rainsy announced his resignation as president of the CNRP on his Facebook page, where he criticized the National Assembly as a puppet parliament.

“I need to protect the party,” he said in the post. “If I remain party president, the party will be dismantled, and then what would be the point?”

Hun Sen is proposing an amendment to Cambodia’s law on political parties that seeks to bar anyone convicted in Cambodian courts from holding a political party’s top office.The “culprit law” would also dissolve any party whose president is convicted of a crime and would enable the government to seize the party’s property.

Cambodian courts are notorious for their lack of independence. Opposition politicians often find themselves before the courts on various charges, and Sam Rainsy is no exception.

He has been convicted in a number of cases brought before the Cambodian courts by Hun Sen or members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and has been living in France since 2015 to avoid arrest in a defamation case brought by former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.

In September he was found guilty of defamation for claiming that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s social medial team had bought “likes” on Facebook from “click farms” abroad to increase the appearance of support.

In October, Hun Sen ordered police, immigration, and aviation authorities to “use all ways and means” to prevent the opposition leader from returning to the country, as Sam Rainsy has pledged to do before the country’s elections.

And in December, he was sentenced to five years in prison in absentia for posting what authorities said was a fake government pledge to dissolve the Southeast Asian country’s border with Vietnam.

Hun Sen has said that the law needs to be changed to rid Cambodian politics of “any individual with culprit status.”

“We shall ban not just a few people, but we shall get rid of the whole slate so that they are deterred,” he said.

Cambodia’s local elections are set for June 2017 and national elections are scheduled for 2018. In the disputed 2013 elections, the CPP lost 22 seats in its worst showing since 1998.

‘So what do we want?’

Remaining at the top of the CNRP would not just threaten the party, but the country,  Sam Rainsy said in his message.

“If the CNRP is dismantled then it would destroy the whole nation and party’s interest,” he said “So what do we want? We want the election because we want change through the electoral process.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann told RFA the party accepted Sam Rainsy’s resignation and agreed to have vice president Kem Sokha lead the party as interim president until a party congress chooses a new president. Kem Sokha has also recently been an acting president of the CNRP.

“No matter what, Sam Rainsy is always in the hearts of the Cambodian people and the hearts of the party leaders,” Yom Sovann said.

Independent political analyst Meas Nee described Sam Rainsy’s resignation as a smart move that could protect the party from disaster.

Having Kem Sokha lead the CNRP may not be a panacea, however, as he has legal issues of his own.

According to local media reports, the country’s Anti-Corruption Unit is investigating Kem Sokha for corruption over leaked audio recordings in which he is allegedly heard promising to buy property for a mistress.

Kem Sokha has neither confirmed nor denied that he is the man in the recordings, but he was sentenced to five months in prison last year for failing to present himself as a witness in the woman’s prostitution case. Although Kem Sokha eventually received a royal pardon at the request of Hun Sen, the case still hangs over his head.

While Hun Sen may have succeeded in getting Sam Rainsy to resign, he shows no signs of easing his legal campaign against anyone who speaks against him.

Hun Sen’s new attack

Hun Sen filed a lawsuit Monday against social and political commentator Kim Sok, demanding $500,000 in compensation for accusing the CPP of orchestrating the 2016 murder of popular political analyst Kem Ley.

“First he accused the CPP of plotting the assassination and planning to rob power from the opposition party,” said Ky Tech, the prime minister’s attorney. “The CPP can’t stand for such an allegation.”

During a speech inaugurating a bridge along the Cambodian-Chinese border in Kandal province, Hun Sen said Kim Sok was inciting social chaos and threatened him with jail and monetary forfeiture.

“Maybe you will face two years in prison and have to pay all the money,” Hun Sen said. “Don’t even say you don’t have money. If you don’t have the compensation money, we will confiscate your house and sell it.”

Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Though authorities charged a former soldier, identified as Oueth Ang, with the killing, many in Cambodia don’t believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the man over a debt. The accused killer has used the alias Chuop Samlap, which roughly translated means “meet to kill.”

Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.

Since the arrest, the investigation has apparently stalled, or is not being pursued as the Cambodian authorities have someone in custody.

Kim Sok denied the allegations, saying what he told RFA was a reflection what many Cambodians think.

“A person who is speaking about the truth and wants justice is not a person who is creating social chaos,” he said. “A person who creates serious social chaos is a person who doesn’t respect the law.”

Reported by Leng Maly for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Chevron May Be Subpoenaed in Kem Ley Murder Case, U.S. Court Rules

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday welcomed a Feb. 9 U.S. court decision to allow Chevron Corporation to be subpoenaed for security camera footage it may have of the murder in Cambodia last year of a popular political analyst.

The video may prove government involvement in the shooting of political analyst and government critic Kem Ley in a gas station in the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy wrote in a Feb. 10 posting on his Facebook page.

“A North California District Court has granted the right to subpoena the U.S. company Chevron for video footage of the shooting of Dr. Kem Ley, who was killed on 10 July 2016 as he was drinking coffee at a Chevron (Caltex) service station in Phnom Penh,” Sam Rainsy wrote.

“This breakthrough is a step towards proving the involvement of Cambodia’s government in Dr. Kem Ley’s murder.”

Chevron has 30 days to contest the court’s ruling, Sam Rainsy added, citing court documents.

Just days before his death, Kem Ley had discussed on an RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for over 30 years, and his family.

Following the shooting, Cambodian authorities arrested and charged a former soldier named Oueth Ang, who says he carried out the killing over an unpaid debt.

Oueth Ang, the only suspect to be charged so far in the case, is now scheduled to go to trial in a Cambodian court on March 1.

Case ‘taken for granted’

Many in Cambodia feel the investigation into Kem Ley’s death has been diverted from looking more deeply into who else may have been involved, though.

“Not much progress has been made in this investigation,” a motorized rickshaw driver in Phnom Penh told RFA’s Khmer Service on Feb. 10.

“I’m afraid that this case will end up like previous murder cases, where the perpetrators always remain at large,” he said.  “I wanted to hear [better] results from the investigation much sooner than this.”

Also speaking to RFA, a student in the capital said that Kem Ley’s murder has now “been taken for granted” and that the murdered analyst and his family are being denied justice in the case.

“There were security cameras at the scene,” he said. “I don’t understand why the perpetrators can’t be found.”

Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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Facebook ‘Likes’ Conviction Upheld by Cambodian Appeals Court

An appellate court on Thursday upheld opposition party leader Sam Rainsy’s defamation conviction for claiming Prime Minister Hun Sen’s media team pumped up the Cambodian leader’s Facebook presence with fake supporters.

Appellate Court Judge Samrith Sophal agreed with the trial court in a hastily announced decision that was attended only by the government official who oversees Hun Sen’s Facebook page.

Neither Sam Rainsy, who is barred from entering the country, nor his attorney Som Sokong, was present for the decision.

“This decision was rendered in absentia yet is regarded by the court as being rendered in the presence of the parties to the proceedings,” Som Sokong told RFA’s Khmer Service. “We are going to appeal this decision in due course.”

Som Soeun, who is the website administrator for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in addition to being an official in the Ministry of Culture, said the court had delivered justice.

“As the CPP’s Facebook Working Group leader I am very satisfied with the decisions by the courts that found Sam Rainsy guilty of defaming me publicly,” he told RFA.

In November, Sam Rainsy was convicted in absentia of defamation by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court municipal court, and he was fined 10 million riel ($2,500) and ordered him to pay Som Soeun 15 million riel ($3,750).

Sam Rainsy had accused Hun Sen’s media team of buying “likes” on Facebook from “click farms” abroad to increase the appearance of support for the prime minister.

Sam Rainsy told RFA’s Khmer Service during a live interview in November that it is Hun Sen who “should be liable for compensating the Cambodian people for all his lies and purchasing ‘likes’ for his Facebook [page].”

“American companies and Facebook can confirm that Hun Sen’s Facebook is full of fake ‘likes,’” he said. “He is again a coward for fabricating his popularity and asking his petty people to sue me in his stead.”

He went on to say that it was “hilarious” that Hun Sen’s Facebook page, which is available only in the Khmer language, had received almost a million likes from people in foreign countries such as India where Khmer is not spoken.

“How could about a million Indians know and support Hun Sen when they don’t even speak the language on his Facebook posts?,” asked Sam Rainsy “So, the bottom line is millions of his like have been purchased.”

Reporters at The Phnom Penh Post in March analyzed the countries of origin for “likes” on Hun Sen’s Facebook page after he had surpassed 3 million fans and found that only 20 percent of them originated in Cambodia. Their analysis showed that in the previous month more than half the “likes” were from abroad—mostly from India and the Philippines—calling into question their legitimacy.

Sam Rainsy has been living in France since 2015 to avoid arrest for a defamation case brought by former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008, and he has been convicted in several court cases brought by members of the CPP.

In October, Hun Sen ordered police, immigration, and aviation authorities to “use all ways and means” to prevent the opposition leader from returning to the country, as Sam Rainsy has pledged to do before the country’s elections.

Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Sam Rainsy to Sue Cambodia’s Prime Minister in The International Criminal Court

The leader of Cambodia’s opposition party plans to sue the country’s prime minister in the International Criminal Court over a failed plan to militarize the country’s border after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s.

“I will not file a complaint to get money for myself,” Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy told RFA’s Khmer Service on Wednesday. “I will file the complaint to seek justice for the entire population of Cambodia.”

Known as K5, the plan has been described as an attempt to build a kind of “Berlin Wall” on the Thai border in an effort to prevent the Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge and other guerillas from reestablishing their bases and infiltrating Cambodia after their defeat by the Vietnamese in 1979.

While K5 was never completed, it’s estimated that up to a million Cambodian workers were pressed into duty as slave laborers to clear the land for the proposed fortifications.

Thousands of Cambodians and ethnic Chinese died from disease or were killed or disabled by land mines as they labored on the ill-conceived project, which was bedeviled by corruption and mismanagement.

Sam Rainsy wrote on his Facebook on Feb. 7, that hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were forcibly sent to help build the “strategic” K5 Wall along the border with Thailand.

Many never returned, and only their ashes were returned to their families, he wrote in the post, adding that he is in the process of collecting more evidence and witness testimonies.

After his investigation is complete, he then plans to file a case with the ICC.

The ICC has convicted only 39 individuals since it was established in 1998, and Sam Rainsy’s case appears to be a long shot. But the attempt reflects the rising tensions between Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and Sam Rainsy and the Cambodia National Rescue Party.

‘Sam Rainsy has been cornered’

Hun Sen’s own previous involvement with the Khmer Rouge is clouded in secrecy, and his relationship with Vietnam has become a potent political issue as the opposition has attempted to paint him as Hanoi’s stooge.

Sam Rainsy has been living in France since 2015 to avoid arrest for a defamation case brought by former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008, and he has been convicted in several court cases brought by members of the CPP.

In October, Hun Sen ordered police, immigration, and aviation authorities to “use all ways and means” to prevent the opposition leader from returning to the country, as Sam Rainsy has pledged to do before the country’s elections.

In January, Hun Sen filed a defamation suit against Sam Rainsy for remarks made during a Jan. 14 speech in Paris in which the opposition leader accused the Cambodian strongman of giving a $1 million bribe to rising opposition social media star Thy Sovantha to persuade her to switch loyalties to the ruling party.

Despite the legal battles, Sam Rainsy told RFA he still holds out hope for a reconciliation.

“We need to remind ourselves that our country has lost some land to foreigners,” he said. “We have been taken advantage of, looked down on, and exploited by foreigners. We must not fight or kill each other.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan threw cold water on the reconciliation notion.

“Sam Rainsy has been cornered,” he told RFA. “His political life is numbered now.”

To build K5, the Vietnamese military command in Cambodia began hacking a path through the jungle along the border with the intent to mine and fortify the border in 1984.

At the time, Hun Sen was a rising figure in the Vietnamese-installed government that ruled the country. In early 1985 he was elevated to the post of prime minister.

The late Sin Sen, who was deputy Interior Minister for the People’s Republic of Kampuchea—as the country was known at the time—has said that Hun Sen ran the operation.

“K5 was led by Hun Sen. He was assigned the responsibility by Vietnam,” Sin Sen said according to the 2015 report “30 Years of Hun Sen” written by the New York-based investigative nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch.

Reported by Vuthy Tha for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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