Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday asked to be charged with treason alongside his fellow Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) co-founder Kem Sokha. However, this was dismissed by a government official as Rainsy’s attempt to “restore his fame”.
CNRP “acting president” Rainsy took to Facebook on Wednesday to say that he must also face prosecution if Sokha had been charged with treason as he was the party’s president at the time.
He said that since Sokha is charged with “colluding with a foreign power to overthrow the government” then he too should be similarly charged.
“I, Sam Rainsy, co-founder, former president and acting president of the CNRP, officially ask to be accused of the same ‘treason’ charge jointly with Kem Sokha, and to face prosecution along with my colleague Kem Sokha."
“If there is any accusation as serious as ‘treason’ charges against the CNRP or any of its high-ranking officials, I must be the first person to be investigated and to possibly face prosecution,” Rainsy said, adding that Sokha must have the charges against him dropped.
He said that video footage of Sokha claiming to supporters in Australia that he had US support through civil society groups – the main evidence behind the charge – was made when Sokha was vice-president of the CNRP and Rainsy president.
Consequently, as leader, he was at the top of CNRP decision-making and responsible for the party’s most important activities, including the receiving and allocating of donations from home and abroad.
He said he had met with democracy non-profits the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), among “other US organisations” in US capital Washington, DC, more often than his then number two.
“I had met with IRI and NDI in Washington DC more often than Kem Sokha and had with them and other US organisations the most detailed discussions on assistance to be provided to the Cambodian democratic opposition,” Rainsy said.
He said that he was willing to testify as a witness in the Sokha case via conference call, saying he knew more than Kong Korm, who was only an adviser to the CNRP.
Korm, a former top adviser to the party, said he had received a court summons on Friday calling for him to appear in court on January 23 as a witness in the Sokha case. He said he would attend.
Asked if he was also willing to testify in person at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and what he would reveal, Rainsy declined to comment, saying only: “I will reveal my information to the court first, through teleconferencing if they agree”.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Ly Sophana did not respond to The Post’s queries.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin said Rainsy’s comments were merely an attempt to restore his reputation after Sokha had faced the courts while he had moved to France.
“Sam Rainsy’s comments were made with political intentions. He wants to raise his popularity by coming out and taking responsibility. Compared with Kem Sokha, Sokha is much more popular because he never fled the country and was brave enough to face the law."
“Sam Rainsy is forgotten, so the only way for him to restore his fame is by claiming responsibility in the case,” he said.
Malin said that claiming responsibility from afar was not enough to restore his reputation. Instead, Rainsy must face the law as Sokha had done.
He said that teleconferencing was impossible because court procedures require those involved to appear in person.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay was of the view that if Rainsy was serious then he should return to Cambodia. “He should send all the truths he knows, with all factual evidence, to the court, and make his submissions public should the court fail to summon him to testify or to prosecute him."
“He should come to testify in court in person in his homeland if he is willing to make all sacrifices for truth and justice. If he really has a guilty conscience, I dare him to return and offer himself to be arrested for treason."
“Some real criminals in other countries have done so in the past. Sam Rainsy would then make history and change our society for the better,” Mong Hay said.
He said that should Rainy be charged with treason, he would only use it as an excuse for not returning to Cambodia after he had recently announced he would.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Rainsy wanted to attach himself to Sokha for political gain.
“As is his strategy, he wants to anger the [government] to benefit from the political situation. This is what he has done on many occasions,” he said.
“With Sam Rainsy . . . I am sure he won’t return because he has made such claims so many times already. And to hide his cowardice he has made the claim that he would ‘not return to be killed like [murdered activist] Kem Ley’,” Phea said.