Kem Sokha Sex Scandal Probe Sparks Criticism

Following an announcement that the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) would launch a probe into allegations that deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha made illegal purchases for a mistress, political analysts and members of the public on Friday questioned why a seemingly tenuous case against Mr. Sokha was being pursued so quickly and doggedly.

Mr. Sokha became embroiled in a sex scandal earlier this month when audio recordings were leaked online of a man, purported to be the politician, discussing past sexual trysts with an unknown woman and promising her two apartments, a plot of land and cash gifts.

On Thursday, ACU Chairman Om Yentieng said the unit would launch an investigation into the case after concluding that the man in the recording was Mr. Sokha, based on a complaint filed by a group of students who have been agitating for the deputy opposition leader to publicly address the allegations of infidelity.

Mr. Yentieng said his officials would analyze sealed asset declarations Mr. Sokha had submitted to the unit—as all politicians must do under the 2010 Anti-Corruption Law—to ascertain whether he had properly declared the purchases discussed in the leaked conversations.

Ou Virak, a political analyst and head of the Future Forum think tank, said on Friday that this should be an impetus for other government officials to follow suit and allow their finances to be put under the microscope. In 2011, he noted, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared to the ACU that his monthly salary was just $1,150.

“One of the things they should do is to open up everybody’s declarations because most of these people do own a lot of valuable stuff like homes, villas, different cars, and probably a lot of money, so I say, let’s open it up,” he said.

“So many officials have so much money and depositing it—most of them won’t explain. You look at Hun Sen, for example, and his income—he said he doesn’t make a lot of money.”

Mr. Virak said the narrow focus on Mr. Sokha gave the impression that the investigation was politically biased.

“If you look at it, it’s very political. It’s very obvious to most people that Kem Sokha is being targeted because he is one of the opposition leaders. The whole message seems to have been well planned and well organized,” he said.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, also questioned the government’s motives for targeting Mr. Sokha, noting that there was also ample evidence of corruption among other politicians.

“There could be plenty of traces such as the huge villas or mansions, luxurious vehicles, lifestyles of them or of their family members,” he said in an email. “And the way the money was spent [is] similar to the allegation against Kem Sokha.”

“If the ACU had taken action on other complaints in the same manner, it [would] be of great benefit for Cambodian society. Otherwise, there [is] bound to be some perception that the action on Kem Sokha’s case might be influenced or motivated by politics,” he added.

San Chey, country representative for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, an advocacy group focused on good governance, said there was no way the ACU could have concluded the voice in the recordings belonged to Mr. Sokha.

“The ACU did not spend enough time to find out the sources of the expenses and did not verify that the voice belongs to Kem Sokha…it’s just based on [the ACU’s] own conclusion,” Mr. Chey said.

“For my understanding, the ACU’s decision to accept the complaint has many suspicious points and makes the people believe that it is politically motivated,” he said.

ACU spokesman Keo Remy hung up on a reporter when asked for comment, and other officials at the unit could not be reached.

Members of the public also wondered why Mr. Sokha’s case was being pursued so assiduously.

“I feel highly suspicious about this,” said tuk-tuk driver Phoun Pha. “Why have they only demanded to open Kem Sokha’s declarations, but not other officials’? Why do they just focus on Kem Sokha? I think it’s politically motivated.”

“Personally, I would like to see Samdech Hun Sen declare his expenses because Samdech is the leader and the biggest one in the government,” he added. “Start with him and then go down from there. His salary is not much, so this means [his money] must have come from corruption.”

A police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was a whiff of hypocrisy about the whole matter.

“This is a personal matter related to Kem Sokha. I’m sure other officials are doing the same. Why do they need to open his letters of declaration?” he said. “Even I have a mistress. Who’s going to complain about me?”

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