Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kem Sokha’s pre-trial detention extended by six months

Kem Sokha’s pre-trial detention extended by six months

Jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha appears at the Appeal Court last month for a bail hearing. Sokha's pre-trial detention on accusations of "treason" was extended today.
Jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha appears at the Appeal Court last month for a bail hearing. Sokha's pre-trial detention on accusations of "treason" was extended today. Fresh News

Kem Sokha’s pre-trial detention extended by six months

Jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha may not face trial until after the July elections, after a Phnom Penh Municipal Court decision on Monday to extend his pre-trial detention up to another six months.

Meng Sopheary, Sokha’s lawyer, confirmed that Investigating Judge Ky Rithy extended the former Cambodia National Rescue Party president’s detention, saying he needed more time to complete the investigation into Sokha’s alleged “treason” charges.

“The investigative judge decided to extend the detention for another six months,” Sopheary said. “The reason he gave was the investigation was not completed.”

She added that the defence continued unsuccessfully to seek his release on bail, citing Sokha’s health problems. In February, the defence team said Sokha had a pinched blood vessel and other ailments that needed treatment in Singapore.

“He [Sokha] was concerned that the symptoms would deteriorate if there is no proper treatment,” she said. “He also told us that he would not run away, even if someone told him to run away.”

Sokha was arrested in a midnight raid on September 3 and provisionally charged with “treason”. His party was summarily dissolved in November on similar grounds by the Supreme Court for allegedly plotting a purported “revolution”.

Over the course of his six months in prison, many opposition members have fled the country, with the vast majority of the CNRP’s elected positions being absorbed by the ruling party.

Officials have offered little evidence to substantiate the accusations beyond a years-old video of Sokha telling an audience of supporters in Australia that he received advice on his political career from the United States.

Monday’s hearing was conducted by Judge Rithy and Prosecutor Seang Sok at the remote Trapaing Phlong Prison in Tbong Khmum, where Sokha has been held since September, with the exception of a bail hearing last month in Phnom Penh, where his request for release was rejected.

Sopheary said Rithy attempted to question Sokha on the facts of the case being made against him, but that the opposition leader refused to answer them because he had already responded to such a line of interrogation. “The lawyers will file complaint to the Appeal Court against the decision to extend his detention,” she said.

The prospects of any pardon for Sokha and other targeted CNRP officials dimmed, with Hun Sen warning in a speech he would not extend another olive branch to the former opposition leader.

Political commentator Lao Mong Hay said there was little chance Hun Sen would release Sokha ahead of the elections because it would undo the premier’s campaign to subdue opposition supporters and get rid of the CNRP.

Additionally, the release of Sokha before July could become a rallying point for supporters, he said. “A trial before the election would further undermine the legitimacy of the election. A trial after the election would not affect its results,” he said.

Former CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the continued detention of Sokha, given his health, was not a “risk that the authorities should take”, adding he should be let go with ample time to contest the July poll. “They cannot release him a day before the elections. They have to allow the CNRP to contest the elections and have time to prepare.”

Updated: 6:47am, Tuesday 6 March 2018


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Cambodia, states clash at UN session

    Cambodia traded shots with the international community in a heated exchange at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday evening, with states condemning the Kingdom’s ongoing crackdown on the political opposition and civil society, and an increasingly agitated Cambodia accusing member states