The National Election Committee (NEC) decided yesterday that it would not attempt to intervene on behalf of its deputy secretary-general, Ny Chakrya, who was jailed on bribery charges on Monday in connection with the government’s probe of a sex scandal involving opposition leader Kem Sokha.
Mr. Chakrya was charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday along with a U.N. staffer and four senior officers from local rights group Adhoc for allegedly conspiring to pay Mr. Sokha’s supposed mistress to lie to authorities about the affair.
Except for the U.N. staffer, who has stayed away from authorities on grounds of legal immunity, all were arrested last week and have been placed in provisional detention.
On Monday, Mr. Chakrya’s wife wrote to the NEC’s nine members, urging them to ask the court to release her husband on bail.
NEC member and spokesman Hang Puthea said the committee met yesterday to consider the request and decided it was not their place to interfere.
“The NEC…is not able to intervene as she requested and will let the court decide,” he said, declining to explain how the committee members had made their decision—whether by consensus, a show of hands or some other method.
He added that Mr. Chakrya’s position was secure—at least for the time being.
“His position will be retained until the court has made a final decision. The court has not yet made a final decision, so the position remains his,” he said.
Mr. Chakrya’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said he himself would submit a bail request sometime this week.
Mr. Sokong said he did not yet know the full extent of the government’s claims and evidence against Mr. Chakrya, who was himself a top Adhoc officer until joining the NEC in January.
“They told me they have an audio recording of him speaking with Adhoc staff, but I have not heard the recording yet,” he said.
But Mr. Sokong said he did not believe his client’s imprisonment was related to the $204 Adhoc gave Mr. Sokha’s alleged mistress during the time it was supporting her against prostitution allegations, because Mr. Chakrya had already left the organization by then.
The woman, 25-year-old hairdresser Khom Chandaraty, initially denied the affair before admitting to it last month and accusing Adhoc staff and others of pressuring her to lie.
Political analyst Kem Ley said the NEC should support its deputy if it believed he was being mistreated.
“If the arrest or charge is not correct, I think it is not right for the NEC” to do nothing, he said. “It should be responsible for its staff. More or less, they should have a mechanism to follow up, or they should have a mechanism to support their staff if something is unjust.”
The government’s manic pursuit of the opposition leader’s sex scandal is widely seen as politically motivated. The creation of the current NEC, however, was a product of fraught negotiations between the CNRP and ruling CPP, resulting in an even split of eight appointees and a ninth member—Mr. Puthea—chosen by consensus.