CNRP Denies Assault on Mother of Alleged Mistress

Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials on Thursday denied claims that their security guards assaulted the mother of a woman claiming to be the abandoned mistress of their acting president Kem Sokha.

Keo Sophannary, 41, first went public with her claim of a long running but now ended affair with Mr. Sokha in an interview with the CPP-owned Apsara TV earlier this month.

Ms. Sophannary went to the CNRP’s headquarters on Thursday where she told reporters that she is suing Mr. Sokha for $10,000 to support her and the two children they adopted when they were together.

Mr. Sokha has since denied knowing the woman and accused the ruling CPP of putting her up to the claims.

Raising the stakes, Ms. Sophannary on Thursday accused Mr. Sokha’s bodyguards of attacking both her and her 62-year-old mother, Sam Phalla, when her mother tried to get Mr. Sokha’s attention by grabbing his hand at a CNRP campaign stop in Prey Veng province.

The two women arrived from Prey Veng City by ambulance just past noon at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital, where staff wheeled Ms. Phalla out on a gurney attached to an intravenous tube and into the emergency ward.

“Kem Sokha’s bodyguards and a woman fought and kicked my mother and seriously injured her,” Ms. Sophannary told reporters at the hospital. “My mother was hit in her chest and stomach, but I don’t know how many times.”

Ms. Sophannary said she was also struck in the arm while trying to protect her mother. She said that she has filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Sokha after local police arrived and took them to police headquarters before calling the ambulance.

Doctors at Calmette Hospital declined to discuss Ms. Phalla’s condition. By Thursday evening, Ms. Sophannary said they were still at the hospital but claimed that doctors were not sharing any information about her mother’s condition with her, either.

Prey Veng provincial police chief Van Saroeun confirmed the filing of their complaint and said his officers are investigating.

“There were about two of Kem Sokha’s bodyguards and a wom­an who were involved, and who hit and pushed the two women,” he said. “Now we are investigating the case and we will prepare a complaint to send to the provincial court.”

Prey Veng provincial deputy military police commander Sau Savoeun said his officers were helping with the investigation and had video evidence of the attack.

Mr. Sokha could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

However, Mono Vithya—Mr. Sokha’s daughter and deputy director of public affairs for the CNRP—who answered his phone, denied the attack claims.

“It’s completely false,” Ms. Vithya said. “There was no confrontation at all with any women. They [the bodyguards] had no confrontation with anyone.”

As with the claims of an affair, Ms. Vithya accused the CPP of fabricating the attack.

“As Margaret Thatcher said, when they attack you personally it’s because they can’t attack you politically, and it shows how desperate they are,” she said.

Surrounded by her son and daughter—now 6 and 8 years old respectively—at Calmette Hospital, Mr. Sophannary claimed that Mr. Sokha had paid her about $300 a month for 10 years before ending their relationship. She engaged in the affair knowing Mr. Sokha was married, she said, “because I loved him and he loved me.”

She denied the CNRP’s claims that the CPP had put her up to her actions, and said she only came forward now, just week’s before July’s national election, because her family was running short of money.

“If Kem Sokha sill won’t recognize me as his wife, I will try to meet him forever,” she said.

Ms. Sophannary gave conflicting information about the length of their affair, however. She said it started either in 1998 or 1999. But she also said it started when she was 21, which would be 20 years ago.

Three opposition members who said they were with Mr. Sokha throughout the campaign stop in Prey Veng on Thursday said Ms. Sophannary and her mother came to the event but claimed they never came anywhere near the opposition leader because rally goers blocked their way.

“I did not see Kem Sokha’s bodyguards or any other participants hit the two women, they just pushed them to move away,” said Chhit Sophal, a SRP council member from Prey Veng’s Kanh Chriech district. “The two women were not hit or injured.

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