Opposition leader Kem Sokha’s legal team filed a challenge in the Appeal Court on Tuesday against a Phnom Penh court investigating judge’s decision to forward his treason case to trial.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge in Kem Sokha’s case on Monday issued an order that there was enough evidence against the opposition leader to proceed to trial, though no date was set for the trial. However, Kem Sokha’s lawyers have filed an appeal against this decision.
“We are sure that sending the case to trial is not justice at all,” said Kem Sokha’s lawyer Pheng Heng. “So, my client and co-lawyers are not happy and satisfied about the case being sent to trial.”
Pheng Heng said that a recent letter from President Donald Trump to Prime Minister Hun Sen, aimed at thawing bilateral relations, could help Kem Sokha’s case.
The letter made clear that the U.S. was not looking for a regime change, but also wanted the Cambodian government to return to the “democratic path.”
Kem Sohka was arrested in September 2017 and charged with treason, for allegedly conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow the Cambodian People’s Party government. He was held in a Tbong Khmum prison for a year and then kept in house arrest till November 2019, when the Phnom Penh court allowed him to only travel within the country.
While in prison, the Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved and 118 of its senior members, including Kem Sokha, were banned from political activity for five years.
The political crackdown, along with the targeting of NGOs and media organizations, resulted in the European Union investigating the potential suspension of the ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) trade scheme, which is critical to bolster the export sector.
Given the international pressure of potential sanctions, especially an EBA suspension, Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said it was time for the major political entities to negotiate an amicable solution to protect workers who could potentially lose their jobs.
“The politicians should talk in an honest way,” Rong Chhun said.
Chea Chamroeun, a former lawmaker with the ruling party, said Hun Sen was adept at dealing with such situations and would not allow for the loss of the EBA.
“Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen is the person [to get] national reconciliation,” he said. “So, he would not allow the country to loss [the EBA].”