The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday questioned a longtime champion of independent media as part of its ongoing investigation into the relationship between deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha and an alleged mistress.
Pa Nguon Teang, head of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media and director of the Voice of Democracy (VoD) news service, had been summoned as a witness in what the court has described as a prostitution case.
Four senior officers of rights group Adhoc and a former employee of the organization, now an election official, have been jailed on related bribery charges widely viewed as politically motivated.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse on Thursday, Mr. Nguon Teang recounted a number of questions asked by Investigating Judge Theam Chanpiseth, all related to Mr. Sokha’s alleged affair with hairdresser Khem Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom.
“Did Mr. Sokha call me and ask me to arrange meetings between himself and Mr. Chakrya?” he said, referring to Ny Chakrya, the jailed deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee.
“Did I call Ms. Try Chhuon, the lawyer of Srey Mom? Did VoD bring in Srey Mom as a guest speaker?”
Mr. Nguon Teang admitted that he had been unable to answer the questions clearly, saying that his job as a journalist brought him into contact with many prominent people.
“It was a long time ago, and I meet a lot of people in general. I am not sure if I called someone or met someone,” he said. “I cannot remember.”
Mr. Nguon Teang said the judge told him the questions were based on the testimony of previous witnesses but refused to name the witnesses or offer any evidence that linked him to the case, going on to criticize the case altogether.
“It is a small case and should not be expanded to be as big as the earth,” he said. “When you expand a case, it will make people live in fear.”
Contacted later, Mr. Nguon Teang said he also feared for his own safety.
“Maybe this is something that involves my human rights work, because I have been active in that,” he said. “Our safety risk is higher and higher these days, but we must continue our work. It does not affect our commitment.”
Court spokesman Ly Sophana said Mr. Nguon Teang might be called for questioning again.
“The questioning of Pa Nguon Teang as a witness has proved interesting to the investigation,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Details of “the investigation cannot be shown or told to the public,” he said, “because these are secrets of the investigation.”
(Additional reporting by Aisha Down)