A senior CNRP lawmaker said Tuesday that he was being blackmailed over an alleged sex scandal, a week after the apparent leak of a series of recorded conversations purported to be between deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha and his mistresses.
Eng Chhay Eang, formerly the secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said he had received the threat through a package hand-delivered to his house near Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Monday evening.
“I asked my family members what happened, and I was told that a teenager brought a closed envelope to my residence at 7 p.m. and gave it to my mother-in-law, who was told the envelope was very important and that it had to be passed to me immediately when I returned home,” Mr. Chhay Eang said.
“I didn’t know what had happened so I opened the package, then I saw a CD and two letters— one of which was a warning to me that I posted to Facebook—and the second letter was a compiled list of what I allegedly spoke about with a mistress,” he said.
The first letter, which the lawmaker posted to his Facebook page late Monday night, makes a number of demands of Mr. Chhay Eang, all relating to the release of the alleged recordings of Mr. Sokha.
“To His Excellency Eng Chhay Eang: First, please read about and listen to your own scandal. Second, do not be insolent and stop speaking to the public and journalists,” says the letter, which is signed “Truth of the CNRP.”
“Third, you must completely withdraw yourself from the mountains of Kem Sokha’s scandal. Fourth, you must immediately stop speaking out to defend and hide Kem Sokha’s scandal…and must leave Kem Sokha to be responsible alone.”
The letter concludes by saying that if Mr. Chhay Eang did not comply, he would face the same fate as the CNRP vice president.
“If you don’t listen and don’t do what I have said in the above four points, your own scandal will be disseminated across the country and world through my Facebook and webpage like Kem Sokha’s scandal.”
Asked about the contents of the disk, Mr. Chhay Eang said he was not planning on listening to it.
“I’m not interested in this thing since it’s just the same story, but I wanted to tell the public that someone sent me the letter and is giving me a warning,” he said.
The “Truth of the CNRP” moniker is also the name of the Facebook account on which the majority of the audio recordings have surfaced. Throughout the past week, the account has been regularly releasing clips it says feature Mr. Sokha talking with his “step wives” about a variety of subjects, including sex, unwanted pregnancies and paying for apartments.
On Thursday, the user behind the page warned CNRP officials to remain silent and refrain from coming to their boss’ defense.
“[I]t’s better to keep calm and let Mr. Kem Sokha to be solely responsible because other senior leaders in CNRP also engage in lots of scandals that I [Truth of CNRP] have not yet released!” the user wrote in one post.
CNRP officials have not outright refuted the authenticity of the recordings. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said this week that he did not care if the clips were real, saying the CPP was using “cheap and illegal means” because it could not contend with the CNRP’s political platform.
Son Chhay, another senior opposition lawmaker, said he presumed the government was regularly eavesdropping on the party’s private conversations.
“We seem to be familiar with this illegal activity conducted by the government for some years,” he said, adding that he had been told by “a reliable source, that yes basically most of the leaders of opposition…their phones have been tapped.”
Mr. Chhay said that to circumvent this suspected eavesdropping, members of the opposition party had resorted to using more than one SIM card to communicate privately.
“You have different phone numbers. One of them is the more permanent, official number and the other is for private conversations,” he said.
Asked if he believed he was being recorded on a regular basis, Mr. Chhay said he did.
“Absolutely, in fact, you are now talking to me. I believe someone is recording this conversation,” he said. “The government groups that are tapping our phones just want to know our activities and want to know our private lives so they can use [that] like with the case of Kem Sokha.”
The recently passed Law on Telecommunications bans the secret recording of conversations over personal communications systems by someone who is not a “dialogue partner,” but a vague exception makes such eavesdropping legal with “approval from legitimate authority.” The offense is punishable by one month to one year in prison.
The government has recently taken steps to boost its ability to eavesdrop.
In December 2014, Chhay Sinarith, deputy National Police commissioner in charge of internal security, told reporters of the government’s plan to install “listening equipment” on the networks of Cambodia’s mobile phone operators and Internet service providers. General Sinarith added that authorities would first need approval from the court to carry out wiretaps.
Por Phak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s general secretariat, said Tuesday that he did not know of any wiretapping or other eavesdropping taking place, while General Sinarith said he was unaware of any government involvement in the cases of Mr. Sokha and Mr. Chhay Eang.
“They just raised these accusations, but I don’t know about this,” Gen. Sinarith said. “I don’t pay attention to this story.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan did not deny that the government was eavesdropping on opposition figures, but said it was up to the CNRP to prove that such activities were taking place.
“Well this is just accusations…. They should comment first on how Kem Sokha was involved with adultery like that, more than how did they record it,” Mr. Siphan said.
“They should refer to who leaked that information instead of pointing the finger at the government,” he added. “I don’t deny anything, but we want to see the proof. Instead of opening their mouths to the public, they have to think of their own credibility.”