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Kung Raiya Trial Completed in the Absence of Government Critic

FILE: Government critic Kung Raiya arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 10, 2019. (Photo from LICADHO)

Frequent government critic Kung Raiya’s trial was completed on May 20 without the presence of the defendant, who was staying in Thailand in anticipation of the verdict.

The barely hour-long trial was completed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, with Kung Raiya represented by his lawyer Sam Sokong.

The critic was arrested in July at a memorial service for slain political commentator Kem Ley, charged with “incitement to commit a felony” and given bail in November.

He was arrested for selling t-shirts with Kem Ley’s image and words. He also provided the phone number for a taxi driver who could ferry people to Phnom Penh for the memorial service. At the time, the taxi driver and Kung Raiya’s wife were also questioned but released without charge.

From Thailand, Kung Raiya said his arrest was unjust and a threat to anyone who wanted to genuinely criticize Cambodia’s social situation.

“The purpose of the charges against me is to silence my criticism, as well as to threaten young people and other Cambodians who dare criticize the inaction of the Cambodian People’s Party and government officials,” he said, during a phone call after the trial.

Raiya said he left for Thailand in December 2019, shortly after he was given bail, and would return to Cambodia depending on the verdict.

"If I am guilty, I will not go back to Cambodia because I do not recognize the court's verdict and I think I will advocate from overseas,” he said.

Sam Sokong, Kung Raiya’s lawyer, used the short hearing to remind the court that his client was only using his right to free expression, as well as participating in political dialogue. He expected the court to rule in his client’s favor on June 19, when the verdict will be delivered.

Kung Raiya's wife, Sok Sreynich, said she expects the court to drop charge against her husband so their family could live together again.

"I call on the lower court and those [officials] involved in my husband's case to please give my husband justice because he is innocent,” said Sok Sreynich.

VOA could not reach Y Rin, spokesperson for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, for comment on Wednesday.