Former parliamentarian Kem Sokha appeared in court Tuesday to answer accusations that he incited violence and racial hatred during the opposition demonstrations in August and September.
The former chairman of the National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee denied all accusations and asked the court to drop its investigation.
“I have not committed any crime or violence,” Kem Sokha said as he left the courtroom after three hours of questioning. “I never urged or incited demonstrators to use violence. I am not responsible for those who committed such violence.”
During the protests, demonstrators vandalized the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument. And a wave of anti-Vietnamese hysteria led to the beating deaths of four ethnic Vietnamese.
Kem Sokha said he hoped the court would drop its investigation because he was one of many participants in the demonstrations. He denied that he incited violence, saying that he was targeted because he lost his parliamentary immunity when his Son Sann Party failed to win any seats in the July 26 elections.
“[The court] knows which parties organized and led the demonstrations—those now sitting in the National Assembly already. Why do they charge only me? I am like thousands of others who joined in.”
He said he attended the demonstrations as a human rights observer.
“The important point is that I did not lead the demonstration. Everyone knew the demonstration was proposed by the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec, led by Sam Rainsy and Prince Ranariddh. My participation was just as a citizen as well as the chairman of the National Assembly’s human rights committee.”
However, Kem Sokha made several speeches at “Democracy Square,” the opposition protest camp across from the National Assembly that was set up in response to the National Election Committee’s refusal to conduct more than a few recounts after the CPP won the July 26 elections.
The Sept 8 breakup of the sit-ins sparked several days of unrest in Phnom Penh, with running confrontations between police, demonstrators and vigilante mobs claiming at least two lives. Dozens of demonstrators have been reported missing.
Kem Sokha went into hiding when a travel ban was imposed on opposition officials linked to the protests. He was summoned to court twice in October but did not appear on either occasion.
Insiders say that under the terms of the recent coalition pact between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Funcinpec chief Prince Norodom Ranariddh, formal charges will not be brought against Kem Sokha if he answers the accusations in court.
Kem Sokha said he was optimistic and that the court had followed correct procedure and the rule of law. He said the atmosphere in the packed courtroom was “good.”
Investigating judge Mong Mony Chacriya said Tuesday that the investigation would continue. “This is just the questioning as part of our investigation. My obligation is to investigate the case charged by the prosecutor.” He did not reveal what evidence has been gathered so far.
The Son Sann Party is now negotiating to merge with Funcinpec, according to Kem Sokha. He added that he would be officially joining Funcinpec after the court case and that the inclusion of his party would be discussed at a Funcinpec congress to be held within two months.
(Additional reporting by Agence-France Presse and The Associated Press)
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