Gov’t Airs Film Accusing Kem Sokha of Coup Conspiracy

Ahead of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha’s scheduled court questioning on Wednesday, a television station controlled by the daughter of Prime Minister Hun Sen aired on Sunday night a film produced by the government that builds a case that Mr. Sokha plotted a coup d’etat.

The 30-minute film, televised on Hun Mana’s BTV station three weeks after her father publicly accused Mr. Sokha of plotting a coup, was intended to encourage the courts “to open an investigation” into the deputy leader, an official responsible for the film said.

Produced by the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, the documentary-style piece begins with a few bars from John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine” before asking viewers to consider Mr. Sokha’s fate.

“What legal action will the courts take against His Excellency Kem Sokha’s words that he failed to change the government, and, moreover, what should the government do to protect the democratic process and rule of law?” it says.

Footage of a speech Mr. Sokha delivered to supporters in the U.S. on March 13 is then shown, with Mr. Sokha apologizing for the CNRP’s failure to change the government following the disputed July 2013 national election.

“I apologize to brothers and sisters that I could not lead change 100 percent,” Mr. Sokha says in the video clip.

Further footage of the CNRP’s demonstrations calling for Mr. Hun Sen to stand down in late 2013 is also shown, along with video of the government’s repression of the nationwide strike of garment workers in January 2014.

“The political organizing of Kem Sokha intended to change the government,” the documentary’s presenter says. “His Excellency Kem Sokha used words of incitement, encouraged a public movement, and joined together with the workers movement of Vorn Pao.”

Mr. Pao, a prominent union leader close to the opposition, spent five months in prison last year after being beaten and arrested in January for his role in leading worker strikes and protests during the same time that CNRP demonstrations were peaking.

“The violent demonstrations led by His Exellency Kem Sokha proves a close relationship, [with he and Mr. Pao acting] as one to lead a people-power revolution. Such acts can be considered dangerous to society and to government institutions, adversely affecting social and public order,” the film says.

“These acts are equivalent to leading forces to carry out a coup d’etat to overthrow the legitimate government, and equivalent to an attempt to topple the government led by Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia.”

The film does not mention opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who along with Mr. Sokha led the 2013 protests calling for the prime minister to step down.

Press and Quick Reaction Unit deputy director Tith Sothea said Monday that the documentary was produced to push the courts to prosecute the case against Mr. Sokha.

“His Excellency Kem Sokha made a confession…and the chanting of ‘Hun Sen, step down,’ and the other violent incidents proves that he attempted a coup d’etat against the legitimate government,” Mr. Sothea said.

“This report is to encourage the court institutions to consider legal methods and to take measures, because we need to respect the rule of law. So the court should open an investigation into this case,” he added.

Mr. Sothea’s comments mirrored a speech by Mr. Hun Sen on March 18, in which the prime minister attacked Mr. Sokha for the comments he made in the U.S.

“There’s a person coming to confess that they tried to topple the government and the CPP but failed, and are now apologizing to people in the U.S.,” Mr. Hun Sen said at the time.

“What legal action should we take?” he asked.

Both Mr. Sokha, who has immunity from prosecution as the vice-president of the National Assembly, and his cabinet chief, Muth Chantha, declined to comment on the film Monday.

Mr. Sokha’s lawyer, Chan Chen, noted that his client had already been questioned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in January last year over accusations of incitement connected to postelection protests that ended in violence.

“I do not see a need to question my client further, because he was already questioned in great detail when he appeared before the court last year,” he added.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the government’s focus on Mr. Sokha was an attempt to divide the two opposition leaders, who often fought publicly before the merger of their respective parties in 2012.

“The CPP are now at a crossroads and they have no choice,” Mr. Sovann said. “They know that less and less people are supporting the CPP, and maybe they think that this is a good idea to improve the power of the CPP.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government has been targeting Mr. Sokha and not Mr. Rainsy due to the deputy leader’s recent intransigence.

“They entered the National Assembly as dialogue partners, but since then Kem Sokha has never respected the culture of dialogue. He continues to use the same language as before the election, and says he does not like compromise,” Mr. Siphan said.

“Let the courts decide on him if he does not like to work together and facilitate stability as well as peace.”

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