As Kem Sokha’s trial entered the fourth week of hearings, little new evidence was presented in court Wednesday morning, to back the treason charge against the opposition leader, with the lawyers instead bickering over procedural issues and engaging in petty arguments.
The seventh day of the trial kicked off with government lawyer Ly Chanthola playing a 2013 video clip of Kem Sokha attending an event at Long Beach, United States, with then-U.S. lawmaker Ed Royce.
In the clip, Ed Royce talks about Kem Sokha’s use of non-violence to push for democratic change and handed him a document praising his work. This was the only piece of new evidence produced in court Wednesday morning.
Government lawyers tried to suggest that the event was clear evidence of the United States’ support for Kem Sokha and that it had funded his political career, in addition to his human rights NGO, CCHR.
Kem Sokha took umbrage with this line of questioning and refused to answer any questions from the government lawyers.
Two government lawyers Ky Tech and Ly Chanthola then talked about how the accused, Kem Sokha, had the right to stay silent but if he answered he should be respectful and follow court procedures.
Another government lawyer Cheng Penghap tried to again question Kem Sokha about a meeting he had with then-U.S. State Department official Daniel Baer. The prosecution, presiding judges and government lawyers have already questioned Sokha about the meeting last week.
Cheng Penghap continued to imply that the meeting was a secret attempt to get the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute to fund Kem Sokha’s party.
“Stop framing me. I did not say that,” Kem Sokha shot back, refusing to further engage in the cross examination.
“I had a public press conference [about the meeting]” he added. “It was a meeting about secrets and collusion why would I speak publicly?”
The court then descended into a long back-and-forth between the government and defense lawyers, each accusing the other of being disrespectful and ignorant of the court procedures.
They also argued about the transcript of the Ed Royce video, with the defense pointing out that there was no Khmer translation of the U.S. lawmaker’s speech in English.
Presiding judge Kuy Sao then took the opportunity to make long observations about the behavior of each side, mostly chiding the defense for not following court procedures.
At one point, prosecutor Plang Sophal pointed to someone in Kem Sokha’s staff and accused one of them of passing notes to the defense lawyers. Kem Sokha’s lawyer Meng Sopheary explained that Muth Chantha, who is a close aide of the opposition leader, was assisting the defense and called him a “legal consultant and researcher.”
Judge Kuy Sao, increasingly annoyed, then asked that if Muth Chantha was a legal assistant he should leave the gallery and sit with the other legal assistants, which he did.
The defense also revealed that it had submitted 16 new pieces of evidence, eight videos and eight photographs, relating to Kem Sokha’s tenure at the Human Rights Party.
The court is currently discussing his activities from the end of 2007 to 2012, just before he merged the party with the Sam Rainsy Party to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party.