The first day of a defamation trial against opposition senator Thak Lany centered on the authenticity of a video purportedly showing her accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen of ordering the July murder of political analyst Kem Ley.
During the three-hour hearing, which the senator did not attend, witnesses supporting her were warned by the prosecution that false testimony would place them in the court’s crosshairs.
“Please be careful,” deputy prosecutor Ly Sophana told them. “If you give false testimony in this court, you will be facing guilt.”
The court showed a two-minute video which appeared to show Ms. Lany at a CNRP gathering in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district, making a speech to party members and activists. “Now Mr. Hun Sen doesn’t know what he’s thinking. In his restlessness, he killed Mr. Kem Ley, a political analyst,” she says in the video.
Kem Ley was assassinated at a Phnom Penh gas station on the morning of July 10 and a gunman has been arrested for the murder. However, many critics and observers remain convinced that the murder was a state-sponsored hit, a theory that the government has done little to repel by conducting a secretive and slow investigation into the shooting.
Ms. Lany has not been seen publicly since the defamation lawsuit was filed against her at the end of July. Her lawyer has claimed not to know her whereabouts, while the president of her party—the legacy Sam Rainsy Party, which has since been merged into the CNRP —has said that her husband believed Ms. Lany was seeking medical care abroad.
At the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, the prosecution presented five witnesses asserting that the video was genuine.
“This is the real speech of Ms. Thak Lany. It is not doctored,” said Keo Sadoy, a Ratanakkiri villager. “No one has forced me to talk.”
Three witnesses for the defense, meanwhile, claimed Ms. Lany had not accused Mr. Hun Sen of Kem Ley’s killing at the gathering.
“I joined the meeting with Ms. Thak Lany, but I didn’t hear Ms. Thak Lany talk about this point, that Mr. Hun Sen killed Mr. Kem Ley,” said Svin Vev, 43, a CNRP member in Lumphat.
“She just said that as the country’s leader, he must respond and find the killers of Mr. Kem Ley.”
Sam Sokong, Ms. Lany’s lawyer, told reporters outside the court that by the next hearing on Wednesday, he would present a video clip absolving her.