Opposition CNRP Leaders to Face Court Today

Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha are due to appear before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as scheduled this morning after retaining the services of a new lawyer, a CNRP spokesman said Monday.

Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha, as well as union leaders Rong Chhun and Ath Thorn, are to be questioned for allegedly inciting garment workers to take part in protests on January 3 in which police shot dead five workers.

Mr. Rainsy had said Sunday that the party would seek out a new lawyer after Chuong Chou Ngy, the lawyer they originally retained, said he was busy with other cases and formally asked the court to delay today’s session.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Monday that the pair will instead be represented by lawyer Ket Khy, who served as a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party during the last mandate.

“The CNRP president and vice president, Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha, are going to court. Mr. Khy is their defense lawyer now and nothing has changed,” he said.

Mr. Khy said that deputy court prosecutor Heang Sopheak would question his clients separately, with Mr. Sokha appearing at 9 a.m. and Mr. Rainsy at 10 a.m.

National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said that military police officers will secure the area around the court but had no orders to disperse any groups who turn out to support the two leaders.

“The military police will be deployed for security reasons. There will not be many and they will not be focused on any protesters,” Brigadier General Tito said.

The government earlier this month placed a ban on groups of more than 10 people gathering in public.

Mr. Rainsy said that neither he nor Mr. Sokha could prevent supporters turning out in front of the court.

“We’re not asking anyone to come out, and aren’t even encouraging people to come out, but we can’t prevent them from coming. It is the freedom of the individual to do what he or she wants,” Mr. Rainsy said.

The European Union delegation in Phnom Penh on Monday also issued an “urgent communique,” clarifying that its ambassador, Jean Francois-Cautain, would not be appearing beside Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha today to show his support.

“The Delegation…would like to make clear that the information posted on the Facebook page named “CNRP Sotheana” indicating that the EU Ambassador will attend the Court hearings…is absolutely false,” the statement says.

Reports that U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi would attend today’s hearings are also false, the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Cambodia said in a notice posted on its website.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

© 2014, All rights reserved.