The Phnom Penh Municipal Court summonsed opposition leader Kem Sokha for a third time Tuesday over comments he allegedly made claiming that Vietnam had fabricated the killings of thousands of people by the Khmer Rouge at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.
Mr. Sokha, acting president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s main challenger in the July 28 national election, could not be reached for comment. But a party spokesman said Mr. Sokha had not received the summons, and would not be attending questioning at the court on Friday.
“Our officials received [the summons] because he [Kem Sokha] is in the countryside,” Yem Ponhearith said.
“He will not appear in court for questioning because he is busy with election campaigning,” Mr. Ponhearith said. “The court is doing it to disrupt our campaign. There are many cases that the court hasn’t taken action on. Why is the court hurrying with Kem Sokha’s case?”
Four survivors of Tuol Sleng prison filed a complaint against Mr. Sokha for defamation last month over his alleged remarks.
Mr. Sokha has denied making the claims, accusing Mr. Hun Sen’s ruling CPP of doctoring audio recordings of his speeches. The opposition party has also accused the CPP of forcing the plaintiffs to file the court case.
Staff at CNRP headquarters refused last month to accept the first court summons because Mr. Sokha was abroad at the time.
Mr. Sokha’s lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, who requested a delay of the questioning when his client was summonsed a second time on Thursday, agreed that the court appeared to be rushing ahead with his client’s case. “The court just delivered the summons today and asked him to go to court on July 5. It is a very short period,” he said. “Normally there would be two weeks to go,” Mr. Chou Ngy said.
“I am not clear about whether he will go or not because he is busy with the election campaign,” he added. “I will discuss it with him.”
Deputy court prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth, who issued the summons and is handling the case, questioned the four plaintiffs in the case last week.