During the opening day of his trial over accusations he bribed the alleged mistress of CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha to deny an affair, Seang Chet, a commune chief in Kompong Cham province, claimed on Friday that a $500 gift was not a bribe but a charitable donation.
Mr. Chet was arrested and charged in April after being accused of bribing Mr. Sokha’s alleged mistress, Khom Chandaraty, amid a high-profile investigation into the pair’s relationship in a case that has been widely derided as being politically motivated.
Appearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday, Mr. Chet admitted to giving $500 to Ms. Chandaraty’s mother, but said it was simply a donation on behalf of CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann.
“On March 10, His Excellency Mao Monyvann called me telling me to give $500 to Srey Mom’s mother,” Mr. Chet told the court, using a nickname for Ms. Chandaraty. “It was charity money from abroad to help her family while Srey Mom was having a problem.”
Mr. Monyvann previously confirmed this account, claiming the money was a donation from the Cambodian diaspora in New Zealand.
The lawmaker also offered five pieces of advice for Ms. Chandaraty, Mr. Chet claimed. The list included that she should not visit the Interior Ministry alone, that she should be tight-lipped with journalists and that she should ask rights group Adhoc to arrange a meeting with U.N. officials to discuss the possibility of leaving Cambodia.
As he was unable to meet Ms. Chandaraty in person, the commune chief said he passed on the information to her sister-in-law and gave the money to her mother.
The case over the alleged affair has since snowballed, with four senior officers from Adhoc and an election official being jailed, while Mr. Sokha was handed a five-month sentence for failing to appear for questioning in the case. He remains free pending appeal.
Also on Friday morning, the Adhoc officers and Ny Chakrya, the National Election Committee official, were denied bail once again for allegedly bribing Ms. Chandaraty, according to Sam Sokong, the lawyer representing Mr. Chakrya.
“All defendants remain under court supervision. They worry those defendants will connive with other witnesses or charged persons,” Mr. Sokong said.
“They should be bailed because they have illnesses…and high blood pressure,” he added.
A verdict in the commune chief’s case is expected on December 5.