Former CNRP activists told to testify in court over ‘plotting’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Authorities​ pin court summons on the gate of former CNRP office at Chak Angre Krom Communce, Meanchey District, on November 14, 2020. FN

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summonsed 67 activists of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to testify in relation to plotting and incitement to caused social chaos. The acts were allegedly committed last year.

The summons issued by deputy prosecutor Seng Heang identified six of them as Kruy Sokhemrith, Seng Khorn, Tith Sophat, Roeurng Samnang, Khin Sokheang and Men Yorn and ordered them to appear on the morning of November 26.

Lawyer Sam Sokong, who was named in the summons to defend the cases on November 26, told The Post on November 15 he was unsure of how many clients he would represent as others implicated in the cases were also seeking his help.

“For those whom I cannot defend, I think the court will request the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia [BAKC] to handle them. The cases involve criminal offences so defence lawyers are need,” he said.

Municipal court spokesman Y Rin told The Post on November 15 that summons for 67 of the 68 activists were attached with a letter inviting lawyers to defend them because they were involved in plotting and incitement to cause social chaos. He said that does not mean lawyers mentioned in the cases were involved with the criminal offences.

“As of November 15, not only lawyer Sam Sokong has been named to defend the cases. The bar association has also assigned lawyers Yong Phanith, Sin Sovorn, Chhe Vibol, Chum Iek, Nhor Nhen and Ly Ratana to defend the accused,” he said.

Rin said the number of defence lawyers to represent the cases will vary depending on the actual situation as the accused might seek their help prior to the scheduled hearing.

None of the activists could be reached for comment. But former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanroth was of the view that the plotting and incitement charges were too serious considering the political roles those activists played within the CNRP.

“I think they have the right to enter [politics]. As for the plotting charges, we don’t know whether they had the intention of toppling the government or not. Maybe they thought they were merely joining a movement to seek a change of the government, or maybe they were just exercising their [political] rights without intending to topple the government,” he said.

Chanroth added that even if they had an intention of toppling the government, the authorities should consider whether the activists had any influence in their calls for a change of leadership.

“In my opinion, first, they have no ability to do so. Second, there is no evidence proving they could do so. I think the court might exert pressure on that opposition group,” he said.