Accused Militants Find Lawyers to Face Court

Two Sam Rainsy Party members summoned by the Military Court to answer questions about their involvement in an alleged opposition militant branch have obtained legal counsel from the Cambodian Defenders Project.

Investigating Judge Pok Pon last week agreed to push back his interviews until Thach Phy and Khuong Nareth, both from Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, found lawyers. The CDP is an aid group that offers free legal counsel to the destitute and vulnerable.

“Thach Phy and I have two law­yers. We are waiting for the second summons before go­ing to court,” Khuong Nareth said Mon­day. He said he felt comfortable answering questions, as long as he was with a lawyer.

Thach Phy and Khuong Na­reth went to Sam Rainsy Party headquarters last week instead of answering their summonses.

Investigating Judge Pok Pon granted Thach Phy a postponement on Thursday, while Khuong Nareth chose to skip his summons for Friday.

Pok Pon said the court issues two summonses per person be­fore sending police out with ar­rest warrants, and added he had not decided on new dates for the interviews.

The summonses were issued as a result of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s accusations last month that the Sam Rainsy Party was raising an illegal armed force.

Government officials said Hun Sen was targeting Committee No 14, the opposition party’s “shadow ministry” of defense that was publicly established to monitor the RCAF and related departments for improprieties.

They alleged that because the group is organized according to RCAF’s military regions, it must be an illegal armed force—de­spite an absence of arms.

The only other evidence presented has come in unsubstantiated confessions by Committee No 14 activists, who complained they were tricked into joining an illegal armed force.

Both Thach Phy and Khuong Nareth have denied ever officially belonging to Committee No 14.

Khuong Nareth said he was promised a government job and tricked into filling out an application for the committee, giving in­formation that instead was used to fill out his court summons.

He said he also gave information on Thach Phy, thinking he was securing a job for his friend.

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