The owner of the barbershop where one of the alleged mistresses of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha is said to have met the politician while dyeing his hair appeared before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to answer questions about the alleged affair.
Mr. Sokha is facing a barrage of investigations by the government concerning audio recordings that were leaked on the internet last month allegedly featuring him speaking with his mistresses, including hairdresser Khem Chandaraty, who is facing potential prostitution charges.
Speaking outside the court on Tuesday, Tuon Socheat, owner of the Khmer Angkor Barbershop in Chamkar Mon district, said he had employed Ms. Chandaraty for a year but had never noticed anything strange about her interactions with Mr. Sokha.
“He came in sometimes. In a month and a half, or in a month, he came one time. He came for a haircut and to have his hair dyed. That’s it,” Mr. Socheat said, referring further questions to a radio interview he gave last month.
In a Radio Free Asia interview shortly after the recorded conversations were made public, Mr. Socheat said he did not believe that Ms. Chandaraty, whose nickname is Srey Mom, had written the angry messages that accompanied the first leaked recordings.
“Previously, when Mom used Facebook, every time she wrote in Khmer it was not smooth. She asked others [for help]. But then when I saw the profile, it had very good writing,” Mr. Socheat said.
Mr. Socheat added that he had no way of knowing whether the claims against Mr. Sokha were true, even though he believed the leaked recordings did indeed feature the voices of Mr. Sokha and Ms. Chandaraty.
“The matter of staff having relationships with someone not only [involves] Kem Sokha or only other clients. If they have a relationship, they hide it from me and don’t let me know,” he said.
Mr. Sokha and the rest of the CNRP had until this week adopted a strict policy of “don’t answer, don’t respond and don’t argue” toward the accusations they say have been made public by the CPP as a political attack.
Yet with Ms. Chandaraty being questioned by anti-terrorism police and having been summoned to court on Friday for questioning over alleged prostitution, opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Monday asked CNRP public affairs director Mu Sochua to intervene to defend the woman.
Ms. Sochua said in an email on Tuesday that she and other lawmakers would do whatever they could in their positions to shield Ms. Chandaraty from the campaign against Ms. Sokha, but did not provide any specifics.
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)