In the latest twist in the sordid scandal surrounding opposition leader Kem Sokha and his alleged mistress, the rights group that has been providing legal advice and representation to the woman at the center of the case has cut her loose, saying she is no longer “in serious danger.”
Adhoc had stood by Khem Chandaraty, better known as Srey Mom, since recorded telephone conversations allegedly between her and Mr. Sokha were leaked online in February, but said in a statement on Friday that because the Phnom Penh Municipal Court was no longer treating her as a “suspect,” the group would be withdrawing its assistance.
“Adhoc would like to announce and inform the public that it is no longer necessary for the association to continue providing a defense lawyer for Srey Mom’s case because it is beyond our mandate,” the statement said.
Ms. Chandaraty is at the center of two separate but related court cases: a defamation case brought by Thy Sovantha—who rose to prominence as an anti-government activist in the 2013 election before being cast adrift by the CNRP, and is mentioned in the taped conversations—and another accusing her of prostitution and providing false testimony, brought by anti-terrorism police.
On Tuesday, after Ms. Chandaraty was questioned as a “suspect” in the second case and admitted to having an affair with Mr. Sokha, the court released a statement reclassifying her as a “key individual in providing information”—a change that Adhoc saw as reason to withdraw as her representative.
“We think that Srey Mom…is not in a state of serious danger or worried anymore because…in the case of providing false testimony and prostitution, Adhoc believes that in the next procedure, Srey Mom can be a witness only,” the rights group said.
The statement added that Adhoc was never involved in the defamation case, as it “is between two ordinary individuals and not part of Adhoc’s mandate.”
Ny Sokha, head of monitoring for Adhoc, clarified that the rights group initially provided assistance to Ms. Chandaraty because she experienced “shock and fear” after being summoned by the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism department, but that she was no longer in such a fragile state.
The investigations into the leaked phone conversations—by anti-terrorism police, the Phnom Penh Court and the Anti-Corruption Unit—have been slammed by rights groups and observers as a smear campaign that is neither relevant to the public nor worthy of being pursued. Some have speculated that the scandal was orchestrated for political gain, admonishing the way Ms. Chandaraty’s name has been dragged through the mud.
“In my opinion, this is not a case for the court to process,” political analyst Kem Ley said on Friday.
“They brought an innocent person to be grilled in order to get what they want,” he said. “It is a dirty political game that should not be played in this day and age.”
In a Facebook post on Friday, Ms. Sovantha weighed in on the case she is not involved in, suggesting that a trip Mr. Sokha allegedly took to Thailand with Ms. Chandaraty could see the deputy opposition leader jailed.
“Kem Sokha obviously committed the crime of sex trafficking and can be imprisoned for five to 10 years,” she wrote.