PHNOM PENH —
The woman who was supposedly revealed to have had an affair with opposition leader Kem Sokha was questioned by the Ministry of Interior’s anti-terrorism department on Friday.
The 25-year-old hairdresser’s real name is Kum Chandaraty, but she has admitted to having set up the Facebook account with the name “Mom Srey,” which was linked to salacious audio recordings circulated online last week.
She was called to appear at the anti-terrorism department in a court order issued after opposition activist Thy Sovanntha filed a defamation complaint.
Try Chhoun, a lawyer for Chandaraty, told reporters that her client had denied the accusation of defaming Kem Sokha, the deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
“The questioning this morning took more than three hours until now,” said Chhoun. “The questioning lasted very long and touched at every issue related to the complaint. My client has denied all the allegations.”
Chhoun said her client would continue to follow the court’s orders.
Lieutenant General Y Sok Khy, director of the anti-terrorism department, confirmed to reporters that Chandaraty “did cooperate well with the authorities,” but declined to elaborate on the details of the interview.
His department would also likely have questions for Kem Sokha, Lt. Gen. Sok Khy said, adding that did not necessarily mean the politician would be summoned.
The recordings surfaced on Monday last week on social media, and are purported to contain the voices of Kem Sokha and the woman called “Mom Srey,” who were allegedly involved in an an affair. It was also alleged in the recordings that Sovanntha was having an affair with Kem Sokha, hence the legal complaint.
The case has raised accusations of a politically motivated smear campaign. Kem Sokha, who is acting president of the CNRP, has said he would “not argue, not respond, and not reply” to the recordings.
In an exclusive interview with VOA Khmer on Wednesday, Chandaraty denied the allegations, and said her Facebook account under the name “Mom Srey” was hacked a long time ago. She claimed that the voice in the recordings was not hers.
Observers noted that it was unusual for anti-terror officials to conduct questioning in a defamation case. Ou Virak, head of local think tank Future Forum, told VOA Khmer that the court itself would usually conduct the questioning in such a case.
The court should also have investigated the veracity of the audio recordings, and probed who was attempting to blackmail the opposition leader with lurid allegations, he said.
“One thing that I am so sorry about is that they should have investigated to find out who taped the audio or who exaggerated this issue,” Virak said, adding that even if the recordings were genuine, the perpetrator should be punished. If the recordings are false, then authorities should investigate whether there could be criminal case to answer, he said.
“There is a violation of the law, so it needs to be investigated. It is not related to terrorism at all,” Virak added. “I think this issue is getting messy, it involves many things.”
Ny Sokha, head of monitoring at local human rights group Adhoc, which is providing legal support to Chandaraty, told VOA Khmer he was monitoring closely the irregular way authorities were handling the case.
“This case is strange,” said Ny Sokha. “Strange, because it is just a defamation case, but the court delegated the investigation to department of anti-terrorism, which works on significant cases. Normally, the court just investigates and questions on its own.”
By way of explanation for his department’s involvement, Lt. Gen. Sok Khy told reporters: “Number one: this is the department of anti-terrorism and anti-cross-border crime, and has a duty as judiciary police. Secondly, we are ordered by the prosecutors and we work under the police commissioner.”
He said his department would investigate all issues relevant to the case, including the audio recordings.
“Actually, the final result will be sent to the court at the end, because I am working on the orders of the court,” said Lt. Gen Sok Khy.
It is not the first time allegations have been made about Kem Sokha having extra-marital affairs. In 2013, a few months before the national elections of that year, a middle-aged woman came forward claiming to have had relations with the opposition leader.
The woman and her mother filed a complaint at court over the affair, but the case disappeared after the elections, at which the CNRP made significant gains against the ruling party.