The former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha said he formed the Human Rights Party (HRP) to serve the interests of Cambodian people, and not to conspire with foreign powers to overthrow the government as claimed in the case against him.
Sokha made the remarks as his treason trial entered the fourth week. He has been charged with “conspiracy with a foreign power” and faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.
At the hearing, Sokha was grilled by government lawyer Ly Chan Tola about the HRP’s establishment, his activities as its leader from 2007-2012 and his relationship with the International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the US Agency for International Development.
“The Human Rights Party was formed to join the general elections that were held fairly for a non-violent change of leadership. I’ve observed that in Cambodian history, [non-democratic] change of leadership always led to bloodshed.
“[For instance] a leadership change was made through a bloody coup between Khmer compatriots and foreign invaders such as what happened in 1970-1979,” he said.
“I [always] intended for Khmer people to be united and I dare to sacrifice everything for Cambodia for it to enjoy genuine democracy and freedom. I dare to do so for Cambodia to be free of foreign invasion and not be led by a foreign power and so on,” he said.
In response to Chan Tola, he said he had previously met with US government representatives and had merely requested human rights-related assistance.
He claimed international organisations including IRI, NDI and USAID did not provide any assistance for the HRP while operating in the Kingdom.
Sokha stressed that he had only requested their financial assistance for training and strengthening the capacities of election observers with their support.
He also said while giving a speech during the HRP congress at the Olympic Stadium in 2007, he only pledged to not run away from the Cambodian people and had not incited anyone to oppose the government.
As in his previous hearings, Sokha’s lawyers requested the court proceedings to centre around facts and not use the speeches he had made as evidence against him.
His defence team reiterated this point after government lawyers asked Sokha to interpret some words he made in the past, such as “enough is enough”.
The government lawyers said such phrases as “enough is enough” implied that Sokha may have had colluded with a foreign power.
“The phrase ‘enough is enough’ was aimed at gaining support and engaging citizens in exercising their rights in line with democracy and the Kingdom’s Constitution,” Sokha said.
Chan Chen, another defence lawyer, told reporters following the trial that Sokha made it clear through a one-hour video clip in Australia that he would only peacefully conduct politics, and not through a colour revolution.
The defence also pointed out that the court had failed to summon any party with whom Sokha had allegedly colluded to commit any treason acts in secret.
“My client has been charged with conspiracy with a foreign power. But until now, the court has not charged a foreign agent or state or summoned a foreigner as co-conspirators, accomplices or as witnesses,” the lawyer said.
The trial will resume on Thursday.