Pen Sovann Anonymously Accused of Underage Sex

The same anonymous Facebook account that released recordings of sexually charged telephone conversations purportedly between CNRP vice president Kem Sokha and a mistress has released similar exchanges allegedly of opposition lawmaker Pen Sovann, who died Saturday at the age of 80, talking with an underage girl five years ago.

The authenticity of the recordings could not be corroborated.

“They released it anonymously, so we can’t judge,” said CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, adding that the poster had “no virtue and no morals.”

The three latest recordings were posted to the Facebook account of “The Truth of CNRP” and echoed the series of recordings it began publishing in March of alleged phone conversations between Mr. Sokha and a mistress.

Mr. Sokha has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of those recordings and was sentenced to five months in prison for refusing to appear as a witness in the prostitution case the leaks triggered. Five current and former members of rights group Adhoc have also been arrested for allegedly trying to convince the woman to deny the affair.

The latest recordings appeared on the page over the past two days, and were featured in two articles published on Tuesday by Fresh News, a CPP-aligned website that is often first to publish government directives and regularly runs anonymous opinion articles attacking the opposition or other government critics. The site has more than 1 million Facebook followers.

The first recording posted to “The Truth of CNRP” page, it claims, was between Pen Sovann and a woman working for him as a maid in November 2011. The accompanying post claims the woman was “underage” at the time. In a later post, allegedly with the same girl, the man asks overtly sexual questions.

A post accompanying the third recording claims it was a conversation Pen Sovann had with a masseuse in January 2011. In that recording, the woman refers to the man she is speaking with as “Pen Sovann” and asks him about his sexual relationship with the alleged minor.

Questions sent to the users behind the Facebook page went unanswered.

Pen Suthea, who lived with Pen Sovann as his adopted daughter since his return from Vietnam in 1992, said they had a few live-in maids. But she said none of them went by the name in the recording and that she and her husband noticed no signs of a sexual relationship between Pen Sovann and any of them.

“I never saw him do anything inappropriate in the family,” she said. “We lived with him every day, so we know.”

Mr. Chhay Eang of the CNRP declined to say whether he believed the ruling CPP was behind the leaks. He said they were clearly meant to damage the opposition’s reputation, but insisted the ploy would not work.

“I think it will not affect the party [CNRP] in the next election because the Khmer people understand what’s happening very well,” he said.

A former collaborator with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other CPP leaders during their time as Khmer Rouge defectors in the 1970s, Pen Sovann had long since fallen out of favor with the ruling party.

Pen Sovann had played a key role in cobbling those defectors together into a rebel force that helped topple Pol Pot in 1979, and became the first prime minister of the government Vietnam installed to replace the Khmer Rouge. But he was arrested after only a few months in the job, having run afoul of Hanoi for trying to resist its control.

After returning from 11 years of prison and house arrest in Vietnam, he took to accusing the CPP government that grew out of that puppet regime of allowing Vietnam to continue having its way with Cambodia and won a National Assembly seat with the CNRP in 2013. The CPP has sought to play down Pen Sovann’s role in Pol Pot’s overthrow and, even after his death on Saturday, accused him of having been soft on national security during his brief stint as premier.

On Monday, the Phnom Penh municipal government rejected a request from the CNRP to have Pen Sovann’s body cremated in public at the city’s Wat Botum park.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said he was unaware of the purported recordings of Pen Sovann posted to Facebook. He said the account was under investigation for the alleged recordings of Mr. Sokha it posted in March, but to no avail.

“I checked with the security department,” he said. “They say the IP address is from abroad, so it’s very hard, but they still continue to investigate.”

Recording a phone conversation without the consent of the parties, and without authorization from authorities, is against the law in Cambodia.

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