Kem Sokha’s lawyers on Monday again slammed Sam Rainsy for using the fate of their client in a bet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, a wager he was almost certain to lose, with one saying he would be “cursed for hundreds of years”.
Three of Sokha’s four defence lawyers on Monday criticised Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), for suggesting on Saturday that he would not return to the Kingdom to face legal proceedings, as was his forfeit in the wager.
Sokha is on bail awaiting trial for treason. In November, his fellow CNRP co-founder Rainsy offered Hun Sen a bet that Sokha, due to legal procedure, would have the charge dropped by March 3, with Rainsy to return to Cambodia to face court action and the prime minister to step down should either lose. Hun Sen accepted.
Writing on Facebook on Monday, lawyer Meng Sopheary questioned why Rainsy had laid the wager. She said Sokha’s lawyers were confident from the beginning as to the likely result of the bet, which pushed them to write a letter appealing for its cancellation.
She said if the bet had been abandoned then, Rainsy would have kept his honour and avoided becoming known as a “man who failed to keep his promises”.
The appeal to cancel the bet, she said, was done with the intention to help Rainsy avoid being killed or jailed, as Rainsy claimed would happen should he return.
But she said some desperate Rainsy supporters did not understand this, and instead insulted Sokha’s legal team.
“We are tolerant but our tolerance has its limits, and the hurt would not make any human being remain the same. When the time to fulfil the promise arrives, [Rainsy is] not brave enough to return but [instead] denigrates the one who [sacrifices himself] for the sake of others [Sokha]."
“[Rainsy now tries to] increase [his] value to make people forget [his] promise,” Sopheary wrote.
Phan Chansak, another Sokha lawyer, also took to Facebook to slam Rainsy, saying: “If your tongue is so poisonous like this, how can we sit looking at each other? Is there any person who is psychically and spiritually strong to work for the party now?”
Chansak, also one of the 116 remaining senior CNRP officials banned from politics after the party was dissolved in 2017, said if Rainsy wouldn’t take accountability for the bet, he should be considered “cheap, without virtue and with no integrity’.
“Politicians across the next generations will curse Rainsy for hundreds of years,” he said.
‘Not a horse to bet on’
Chan Chen, another Sokha lawyer, also slammed Rainsy on Monday for offering the wager.
“Since the beginning, [Sokha’s] lawyers have denounced the bet. Initiated by Sam Rainsy, the freedom of other people, especially our client, should not be the subject of a bet."
“First, it affects his freedom and honour. My client is not [a horse] or something to place a bet on,” he said, adding that the wager could also affect the legal procedure.
“If he wants to be high up, we appreciate that, but he should not step on the heads of others to sink them in mud to make himself so. But [Rainsy] won’t take responsibility [for his actions],” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Rainsy had failed to keep yet another promise. He said Sokha must be disappointed with the situation.
“There is little doubt Sokha is not happy with the bet on his liberty. The bet has been criticised from the day the prime minister accepted it,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Rainsy had a history of running away from court cases and always failed to keep his promises to return.
He said it was not only Sokha’s lawyers who were disappointed. Some of Rainsy’s supporters also feel the same way. They had followed him since 1995 and faced problems, he said, and finally, he left them by fleeing abroad.
Phea also questioned Rainsy for taking a different attitude to former Thai prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who he said never appealed to the international community to put pressure on the military governments that succeeded them.
“If we talk about the Shinawatra family, both brother and sister won elections and the junta destroyed them again and again."
“But they never called for international pressure to be placed on their country and they never spoke ill of their country as Sam Rainsy has. The reaction of Sokha’s lawyers was actually light."
“For a person like [Rainsy], I don’t know a suitable word to describe him according to his actions,” he said.
Phea said the phrase “Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha are one person” was used to cover the split in the CNRP into Sokha and Rainsy factions.
“Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy are different persons and they have different strategies and destinations,” he said.