Authorities meet ahead of Sokha trial to ensure order

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The Phnom Penh administration on Monday met with municipal and military police to ensure public order ahead of Kem Sokha’s treason trial. PHNOM PENH MUNICIPAL HALL

With Kem Sokha’s treason trial to take place over two consecutive days this week, the Phnom Penh administration on Monday met with municipal and military police, while similar meetings took place across the country to ensure public order.

Sokha, the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), is charged with “conspiracy with a foreign power”. He faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

The President of the Trial Chamber Koy Sao has scheduled the hearing to be conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng met with municipal police chief Sar Thet, the capital’s military police commander Rath Sreang, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s president and prosecutors, and authorities from the capital’s 14 districts.

Sreng said on Facebook that the meeting was to look at gun control and crack down on excessive alcohol consumption and gambling, “especially [to ensure] security, social order and tidiness for the people”.

Banteay Meanchey provincial Military Police commander Born Bin held a meeting with subordinates at all levels to pass down on the orders of National Military Police commander Sao Sokha.

“At the meeting, commander Born Bin laid out the measures for the local military police at town and district levels to be alert to surveillance and keep abreast of suspicious activities and opposition groups, with strong cooperation with local police and authorities, to prevent and take action against any gathering, show of support or protest during the trial of the defendant Kem Sokha,” Banteay Meanchey provincial Military Police said on Facebook.

Military Police spokesperson Eng Hy confirmed that such meetings were held on Monday in Phnom Penh and across all the Kingdom’s provinces.

The Ministry of Interior’s criminal department also held similar meetings.

National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun said the police must maintain security across the country.

“For the Kem Sokha trial, we have prepared plans to maintain public order and security. If too many people come to the court hearing, we will ease this.

“People won’t be prevented if they are not interrupting the hearing or causing trouble such as by protesting. This is not allowed.

“If a protest were to be held, we would have to disperse it because to demonstrate against the hearing is illegal,” Kim Khoeun said.

A document signed by National Police chief Neth Savoeun and National Military Police commander Sokha dated December 16 said it was predicted that an “extremist group” – likely former CNRP supporters – could look to provoke people in Phnom Penh and in the provinces to gather in the capital against Sokha’s trial.

“They said there was the risk of disorder aimed at interrupting the trial process. Fake news had also been spotted on social media,” the document said.

To maintain security, Savoeun and Sokha told the national and military police to work together and get all equipment ready. Security forces would be deployed at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and Prey Sar prison, where supporters were expected to gather.