Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sokha trial faces another Covid-19 delay as prosecutor tests positive

Sokha trial faces another Covid-19 delay as prosecutor tests positive

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Kem Sokha leaves the municipal court after his hearing in January. Hong Menea

Sokha trial faces another Covid-19 delay as prosecutor tests positive

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has postponed the March 9 hearing in the ongoing treason trial of former opposition leader Kem Sokha to March 16 – after a member of the prosecution returned a positive test for Covid-19.

According to a March 7 letter from the court seen by The Post on March 8, Plang Sophal, one of the lead prosecutors, had a positive rapid test result confirmed by PCR test at the National Institute of Public Health on March 4.

The letter said two other prosecutors had been in close contact with Sophal and had placed themselves in isolation as a result.

“To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the prosecution requested that the court postpone this week’s hearing until the next available date,” the letter read. President of the trial chamber Koy Sao had signed off on the delay.

Reached by phone on March 8, Sophal confirmed that he had returned a positive result and asked for the postponement.

Pheng Heng, one of Sokha’s defence team, said he had received the letter announcing the latest delay.

“The hearing scheduling is entirely dependent on the court. Naturally, we would like to accelerate the trial, but we cannot force it to happen,” he said, adding that his team would continue to request that additional hearings be added to the timetable.

Sokha’s defense lawyers have urged the court to expedite the trial by adding more sessions each week, claiming that prolonging the case is a violation of their client’s rights.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin denied the accusation that the court was purposely prolonging the trial. He said the case involved national security and there were many pieces of evidence submitted by both parties, all of which need to be reviewed and cross-checked thoroughly, he said.

He added the court must follow correct procedures to ensure that the rights of the defendant are protected. There was one way to accelerate the conclusion of the case, he reiterated, and that was to plead guilty. A guilty plea meant that the accused would receive clemency, especially in a case where the prosecution had overwhelming evidence against the person on trial.

Malin said authorities have solid evidence in Sokha’s case. As an observer, he said he had never seen a case where the body of evidence had been assembled in as much depth as this one.

“In my personal view – in a case with such strong and consistent evidence against the accused – the best course of action would simply be to plead guilty. This would result in clemency and court proceedings would be wrapped up quickly,” he said, adding that this was a common procedure in many countries with advanced democracies.


  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro