A day after his bail conditions were eased, opposition leader Kem Sokha met with the French and U.S. ambassadors at his residence on Monday. The meetings focused on the opposition leader’s health and did not delve into the current political scenario, according to a close of aide of Kem Sokha.
Kem Sokha’s bail conditions were relaxed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday, ending his house arrest and allowing him to move within the country. But, he still cannot travel overseas or engage in political activity. The bail conditions were modified after Kem Sokha’s lawyers requested that the charges against him be dropped on November 7.
“Actually they only discussed his health, his personal situation, and exchanged some views on how we should move forward on building democracy,” said Muth Chantha, a close aide to Kem Sokha.
After meeting with French Ambassador Eva Nguyen Binh Monday morning, Kem Sokha met U.S. Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy in the afternoon. Sokha did not comment on the meeting, pointing to the vague bail conditions preventing him from engaging in political activity.
“Because I am banned from engaging in politics or from talking about political issues, I don’t know what type of language could be considered political,” he said.
Murphy said that the U.S. acknowledged Sunday’s development as a step forward, but that more needed to be done to ensure Kem Sokha regains all his freedoms and liberties, as well as for all the CNRP supporters and officials who had been arrested recently.
“Our advice as a friend of the Kingdom of Cambodia is that the authorities find a way to restore Mr. Kem Sokha's entire freedoms and liberties, to drop the charges against him, but also to use this important time and place to do the same for many other people who have had their freedoms and liberties denied,” Murphy said.
Sokha is now expected to meet the Australian and German ambassadors on Tuesday. He was arrested in 2017 on alleged treason charges and spent a year in a Tbong Khmum jail before being given bail in 2018, with the court placing him under house arrest.
Some of Kem Sokha’s CNRP colleagues, including Mu Sochua and Sam Rainsy, are attempting to return to the country and are currently camped in Malaysia. They have so far missed a November 9 deadline for their return, partly due to Cambodia’s leaning on its ASEAN neighbors to prevent the opposition members from entering Cambodia.
Sam Rainsy and his CNRP colleagues in Kuala Lumpur have been invited for a meeting by Malaysian lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar, but a spokesperson for parliament confirmed it was not an official invite from the legislature.
“[This is] to inform you that the presence of Mr. Sam Rainsy to Parliament of Malaysia is not through our side [and] not an invitation from Parliament of Malaysia,” said Muhd Nor Aswadi Bin Md. Nor, an information officer for the Malaysian parliament.
Additional reporting by Sok Khemara