CNRP acting president Kem Sokha has been forbidden from leaving the country, after a fresh court order was issued from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Police arrived at the party’s headquarters yesterday morning with the order in hand, which opposition lawmakers refused to accept and was later taped to the front of Sokha’s home in Tuol Kork district.
Dated July 8 and issued by investigating judge Than Leng, the notice places Sokha under the control of the court and obliges him not to leave Cambodian soil.
“If the accused man escapes intentionally from the [court’s] obligation, according to the court [procedure], the investigating judge can decide to detain the accused man temporarily,” the order reads.
It also calls upon authorities to notify the investigating judge if “the accused man Kem Sokha does not respect this decision”.
An investigation into Sokha’s failure to appear before the court in relation to an alleged prostitution case, which critics have labelled politically motivated, was officially completed on July 1.
CNRP lawmakers yesterday slammed the travel restriction as an abuse of Sokha’s rights, deeming it unconstitutional and reiterating that he could not be arrested while he still had immunity.
“[This act] confirms clearly that His Excellency Kem Sokha’s case is politically motivated,” they said in a statement.
Lawmaker Mu Sochua added that the political situation – in which four members of civil society, a CNRP commune chief and NEC official Ny Chakrya remain in prison in connection to the case – and what she termed a violation of the constitution were “alarming” and “problematic”.
“The political situation is a difficult case and cannot be dealt with by a judicial system that is not independent; therefore, we will continue to ask for dialogue [between the ruling party and the opposition],” she said.
“It’s clear that these national institutions that are supposed to be independent cannot be, even if they wanted to, because political pressure is imposed on them.”
Lawyer Sok Sam Oeun, president of Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP), said that the move could set a concerning precedent.
“Prohibiting him from leaving the country . . . the court can do something like that only for the lay people who have no immunity,” he said. “If the court can do this, it shows that immunity means nothing.”
Sokha’s lawyer, Hem Socheat, yesterday said he was bewildered by the decision, as the investigation into his client’s non-appearance had been closed. He called on the court to either send the case to trial or acquit Sokha.
But Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophanna said the move was in line with legal procedure and that there was more than sufficient basis for the travel restrictions.