Opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday instructed the CNRP to hire a lawyer for the alleged mistress of his deputy, Kem Sokha, to help her fight potential charges of prostitution and defamation that she faces after being called to court for questioning on Friday.
Khem Chandaraty, allegedly the woman in leaked recordings suggesting Mr. Sokha was engaged in an affair, has been summoned to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to answer questions after political activist Thy Sovantha filed a defamation complaint over the audio clips last month.
Mr. Rainsy, in an email to CNRP public affairs chief Mu Sochua, said the party had to act, despite a policy of not responding to the claims against Mr. Sokha.
“Dear Sochua, There is no legal ground to press charges against her,” Mr. Rainsy wrote, noting that the complaint filed by Ms. Sovantha, who is spoken about in the recordings, was incongruous with the ensuing charges.
“PROSTITUTION: In her complaint Thy Sovantha does not accuse her of (not even mention) prostitution, but only (possibly and indirectly) of defamation.”
“DEFAMATION: This charge may apply when you express something in PUBLIC,” he said. “But the concerned conversations were PRIVATE, which were illegally taped and leaked…without [their] knowledge.”
“The latter are VICTIMS and not offenders,” Mr. Rainsy added. “Please ask a good lawyer to develop these arguments.”
Ms. Sochua said she believed Ms. Chandaraty already had a lawyer and would instead coordinate with them.
“She has a lawyer,” she said in an email. “I have a lawyer and [am] discussing legal arguments with her.”
Ms. Sochua indicated that even if the claims of an affair were correct, prostitution charges were absurd.
“Cambodia has [the] 2008 Law on human trafficking and the 2010 Penal Code. Under these two laws, sex workers…can not be considered as criminals,” she said. “The 2008 law does not penalize adult client nor sex workers.”
Ny Sokha, head of Adhoc’s monitoring section, said Ms. Chandaraty’s family on Wednesday submitted a request to delay Friday’s questioning session because they were having trouble finding a lawyer.
Deputy court prosecutor Sieng Sok said he had not received the request but indicated he would consider it. “In relation to this matter, it’s her right to ask for delay, but we can summon her again,” he said.
Y Sok Khy, the head of the anti-terrorism police, who questioned Ms. Chandaraty last month and suggested the “prostitution” charges to the court, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
However, on Friday, in response to the same arguments put forward by Mr. Rainsy, he was unmoved.
“They can say what they think because it’s their right,” Lieutenant General Sok Khy said of the critics of his decision. “We work in accordance with our actual investigation.”