Suon Visal, who was elected president of the Cambodian Bar Association, said that he was concerned for his safety after being charged with forgery by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Following a complaint filed by his rival for the bar’s presidency, Ky Tech, the court on Thursday charged Suon Visal with forging the bar association’s official stamp and stationery, said court officials.
“The charge has already been passed on to the investigating judge,” a court clerk said on condition of anonymity.
Suon Visal would not disclose his whereabouts on Thursday. “I am worried about my safety. I am worried that they will use the law of the jungle. But if they go by the law, there should be no problem,” he said by telephone.
On June 24, former bar association president Ky Tech lodged a court complaint against “Suon Visal and accomplices” for allegedly forging the bar association’s stamp, removing his name from the bar’s stationery and replacing it with his own.
Ky Tech has maintained possession of the stamp since he lost the Oct 17 presidency election, whose results he later challenged in court.
In a closed-door hearing of the Appeals Court on Nov 19, it was ruled that Ky Tech was the rightful president. That verdict was appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled on June 2 that the Appeals Court decision was invalid.
With the case kicked back to the Appeals Court, Suon Visal assumed his elected position as bar president, and accused his rivals of trying to block the association’s work by filing a complaint against his use of the official stamp.
Though summoned by Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savouth to appear in court on Thursday, Suon Visal went to the court on Wednesday, accompanied by UN human rights office staff.
Ouk Savouth did not answer calls on Thursday.
Ket Khy, a bar association member and Suon Visal loyalist, said on Thursday that the courts were trying to intimidate the bar president and force him to leave the country.