Opposition lawmaker Long Ry became the first witness to be questioned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday morning over accusations that Radio Free Asia journalist Huot Khin Vuthy falsely identified himself while accompanying Mr. Ry and CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua on a prison visit last week.
On Thursday morning also saw the release of a defiant statement from Radio Free Asia (RFA) saying Mr. Khin Vuthy, the station’s deputy director for Cambodia, was innocent and that the broadcaster would not be cowed by government pressure. RFA would also continue their “brave and courageous” reporting in the run-up to June’s commune elections, the statement says.
“It is beyond reason that authorities would target, harass and threaten a journalist for doing his job,” the statement says. “These recent actions are meant to intimidate him and RFA’s staff during a highly contested election season.”
Mr. Khin Vuthy, known on-air as Chun Chanboth, is accused of falsely declaring his position as an “assistant” to the CNRP lawmakers when he signed in at Prey Sar prison last Wednesday to visit a group of 16 opposition officials and activists imprisoned there. He has denied the accusation, saying he left the space for his job title blank.
Mr. Khin Vuthy is set to be questioned on May 2, while Ms. Sochua, the other CNRP lawmaker, has been summoned for questioning today as a witness in the case.
Mr. Ry, also the CNRP’s head of security, appeared at the court on Thursday morning at about 9 a.m. and was questioned by deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok for more than two hours.
Mr. Sok could not be reached for comment, and municipal court spokesman Y Rin declined to comment.
After leaving the courthouse, Mr. Ry also refused to comment and referred questions to his lawyer, Sam Sokong.
“[Mr. Ry] appeared on his witness obligation and answered the truth about what he heard and what he knew,” Mr. Sokong said, declining to provide details of the questions due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
As a result of the case, the Interior Ministry earlier this month announced that CNRP officials were no longer permitted to visit their colleagues in prison in order to maintain “public order.”