The Military Court prosecutor has charged an organizer of the opposition party’s “shadow ministry” of defense, or Committee No 14, with raising an illegal armed force, officials at the court said Tuesday. But no arrest warrant has been issued, they said.
This week’s charges were pressed against Khom Piseth, a deputy to Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and Committee No 14 chief Cheam Channy.
Some, however, questioned whether his case belongs in the Military Court. According to the 1993 law on the organization and activities of Cambodia’s courts, the Military Court has the authority to handle “military offenses.”
The law defines military offenses as “those committed by military members in the army,” according to an unofficial English translation published by the UN.
Khom Piseth was once a soldier, but is now a civilian.
Son Soubert, a Constitutional Council member, said the Court is clearly out of its jurisdiction. If the case deals with a civilian, it should be tried in a civilian court, Son Soubert said Tuesday. He added that the Military Court has never prosecuted a member of the military.
But Military Court Director Ney Thol said that a case concerning an illegal armed force belonged in his court.
“In the Constitution, there is no article to say that the [Phnom Penh] Municipal Court can deal with the case,” he said.
The Municipal Court and the provincial courts, which have tried accused members of the outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters, have overstepped their bounds in doing so, he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen likened Committee No 14 to the CFF during a speech on July 18, when he first accused the Sam Rainsy Party of recruiting a militant branch. Military Court Investigating Judge Pok Pon said he received the prosecutor’s charge from Ney Thol on Monday but had not read the document to see under which article Khom Piseth was charged.
Ney Thol said Pok Pon could review the case for up to six months before deciding whether to issue an arrest warrant.
Cheam Channy said Tuesday he had not spoken to Khom Piseth since the day after Hun Sen made his accusations. He said Khom Piseth and countless Sam Rainsy Party activists have been in hiding since then.
Cheam Channy said the government was going after Khom Piseth because, unlike himself, Khom Piseth does not have parliamentary immunity.