Days after refusing to appear for a court summons in a defamation case, deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha was again served a summons by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, this time in relation to “procurement of prostitution”.
The acting CNRP president will have to appear before the court on May 17, according to the summons issued last week, with deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok refusing to divulge the reasons for the summons or if the case was related to prostitution accusations previously levelled at salon worker Khom Chandaraty.
“Just wait and watch,” Sok said. “If Kem Sokha does not come, then I will send additional information via the court’s spokesman.”
Chandaraty was ordered to appear in court on April 19 over accusations of prostitution and lying to the anti-terrorism police about her alleged relationship with Sokha.
The CNRP leader was issued a summons separately last week in relation to a $1 million defamation suit filed by social media celebrity Thy Sovantha, who claims she was disparaged in a leaked audio conversation purportedly between Sokha and Chandaraty.
In a statement sent last week, the CNRP said the opposition leader had immunity, thanks to his lawmaker status and would not honour the summons, with CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday adding that the same would apply to the new summons as well.
“We have said what we wanted to in the statement last week,” he said. “He [Sokha] will not appear before court.”
On the sidelines of the ongoing legal proceedings, the CNRP said last week that it was hoping to seek a solution with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party amid the escalating political crisis.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday said that the opposition needed to make official contact, via either a letter or phone call, if they were serious about wanting to negotiate a solution.
“[The CPP] has not closed the door on the culture of dialogue, provided that this culture is based on an agenda of discussion,” he said.
However, he said the so-called culture of dialogue could not be used to negotiate the release of prisoners, which would undermine the authority of the courts.
He also refuted claims by the opposition that they were having difficulty in contacting CPP leaders, adding that the ruling party was also busy addressing the country’s water shortage issues.
“Right now, [we] use modern technology, so we do not mind any form of contact, provided that they clearly contact us for discussions,” Sok Eysan said.
But opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang yesterday said they were having difficulty getting CPP leaders on the phone.
“If [the CPP] does not give phone numbers, [we] cannot contact them, because the leaders of [the CPP] have a lot of telephone numbers,” he added.
Following the arrest of human rights defenders and an election official last week, rights groups and NGOs have asked supporters to dress in black every Monday as a mark of protest against the government’s actions, with 300 of them expected to picket Prey Sar prison on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Interior, in a press release, said the groups should ensure that they do not violate constitutional provisions during their Black Monday Campaign, adding that authorities at all levels would enforce the law “to maintain peace, political stability and social order.”
“Monday is the day the court sent four human rights defenders and a deputy secretary-general [of the National Election Committee] to prison,” said executive director of Cambodian Centre for Independent Media Pa Ngoun Teang.
“We have chosen black because we see increasing intimidation with human rights issues.”