CPP Lawmaker Threatens Sokha With Inquiry

CPP National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun on Tuesday threatened deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha with a parliamentary inquiry into claims he had a series of extramarital affairs, pointing to the impeachment proceedings against former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The threat came as Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) Chairman Om Yentieng appeared to threaten to release information incriminating opposition leader Sam Rainsy if he continues to rebuke the anti-graft body for its involvement in the accusations against Mr. Sokha.

Dressed in CNRP hats and shirts, a group of students parades through Phnom Penh on Tuesday protesting against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha's refusal to respond to accusations that he had extramarital affairs. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Dressed in CNRP hats and shirts, a group of students parades through Phnom Penh on Tuesday protesting against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha’s refusal to respond to accusations that he had extramarital affairs. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Vun, who is also a senior ruling party lawmaker, made his threat to launch an “ad hoc” inquiry into Mr. Sokha’s alleged indiscretions outside the Assembly after accepting a petition against Mr. Sokha from a student group that also delivered its grievances to the U.N.’s human rights office.

“Being a lawmaker, he should not be summoned for questioning—but he should be responsible for this scandal since the value of the Khmer women he cheated has fallen,” Mr. Vun said, accusing the CNRP deputy leader of “seriously violating the adultery law.”

“There is a way for us to take action that does not violate the law, and that means that the permanent committee, in accordance with the Constitution and National Assembly’s internal rules, has the right to create an ad hoc committee to investigate this case,” he said.

If the claims were found to be true, he said, there would be only one course of action for Mr. Sokha.

“We cannot suspend his immunity, since that requires two-thirds [of votes in the Assembly], but to show the ethics of a lawmaker, he should resign from his parliamentary position if it’s true,” Mr. Vun said.

He added that Mr. Sokha’s case was not unusual in global politics, noting precedents around the world for how such sexual scandals could be dealt with.

“We can see that the U.S. Congress has had a lot of sex scandals. There have been four or five U.S presidents involved with this issue, and the latest one was Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was impeached,” he said.

A group of students parades through Phnom Penh yesterday, protesting against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha’s refusal to respond to accusations he had extramarital affairs. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A group of students parades through Phnom Penh yesterday, protesting against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha’s refusal to respond to accusations that he had extramarital affairs. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The laws did not allow for [his] removal, but the Congress could impeach and require him to resign from the position. Therefore, the lower house of the U.S. decided that he should leave the position.”

Mr. Vun acknowledged that Mr. Clinton was acquitted in the U.S. Senate, but noted that many other politicians had voluntarily resigned after such sex scandals emerged.

The claims against Mr. Sokha stem from dozens of telephone call recordings released on the Internet over the past month apparently featuring Mr. Sokha speaking to mistresses and at times promising them homes.

With Mr. Sokha refusing to publicly react to the accusations, a group of students led by Srey Chamroeun, 24, have waged a campaign trying to force a response. The group’s petitioning took a bizarre turn on Tuesday, with the students donning opposition party T-shirts and hats as they paraded around Phnom Penh.

“We are not related to, or funded by, any political parties to do this, but it stems from our will to find the truth,” Mr. Chamroeun said while petitioning.

Besides delivering a copy of their petition to Mr. Vun, the group of about 70 students also visited the U.N.’s human rights office, where they delivered a petition for Rhona Smith, the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, who is currently visiting the country.

The group then headed to the CNRP’s headquarters in Meanchey district, where their petition was rejected after a verbal sparring session with opposition supporters. Unsatisfied, they headed to Mr. Sokha’s house in the city’s north.

Arriving after an hour of driving, dressed in CNRP gear but chanting about Mr. Sokha’s alleged infidelity, the students delivered a petition to a guard outside his home, and then dispersed—but not until playing the recorded telephone calls over loudspeakers.

Standing among the onlookers, Muth Chantha, Mr. Sokha’s cabinet chief, said the CNRP had sent written requests to the Phnom Penh municipal police asking for protection but had been denied. The last time protesters came to Mr. Sokha’s house, after the beating of two lawmakers in October, they pelted his home with rocks.

Mr. Chantha added that Mr. Sokha, aware of the possibility of more chaos, had not been home.

“I think he’s working outside somewhere,” he said, declining to be more specific. “I don’t really want to talk about this. It is just silly. It is illegal, and they should not even be allowed to come here and do this.”

Mr. Chamroeun’s student group has so far been successful in petitioning Mr. Yentieng of the ACU to investigate the houses Mr. Sokha allegedly promised mistresses, leading to scorn from some—including Mr. Rainsy, who said the unit did not know its role.

Mr. Yentieng took to Radio France International on Tuesday to warn Mr. Rainsy to be careful.

“For the case of Sam Rainsy, it doesn’t mean we don’t have cases with him—we do,” Mr. Yentieng said. “But we thought we’d give him some time on this issue, so [we] have not talked yet about about this problem.”

“But if he continues to deter our investigation, our unit will clarify it,” Mr. Yentieng added.

Mr. Rainsy said he was unafraid.

“He’s trying to blackmail me, but I could not care less because I have nothing to hide,” Mr. Rainsy said by telephone, explaining in a separate email that the CPP was the one who should fear graft inquiries.

“Investigation into the (ill-gotten?) assets of all politicians should proceed now with the participation of independent observers, under the eyes of all citizens.”

As for the possibility that parliament will examine Mr. Sokha, CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said any such inquiry would only raise more questions.

“There was the case of a group of people beating up lawmakers in front of the National Assembly. We requested the establishment of a committee. It was not created,” Mr. Chhay Eang said.

“If the National Assembly permanent committee creates an ad hoc committee to investigate issues below a man’s belt, it will make everyone laugh at it.”

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