Students Blocked From CNRP Forums

A group of student demonstrators seeking to confront CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha over a series of audio recordings purported to be of conversations between him and a mistress was barred from entering two public forums held by the opposition party over the weekend.

Mr. Sokha, who has not publicly responded to the recordings—which were posted to Facebook last week—presided over public forums in Preah Sihanouk province on Saturday and in Phnom Penh Sunday.

Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha greets supporters at a public forum in Phnom Penh's Sen Sok district Sunday.
Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha greets supporters at a public
forum in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district Sunday.

Peng Phyren, a 24-year-old student at the royal university of law and Economics who led a protest at the CNRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday, said about 30 students planned to attend yesterday’s forum in Sen Sok district but were rebuffed by CNRP security guards.

“We wanted to ask Mr. Kem Sokha to say whether the voice is his or not, but his bodyguards prevented us from walking inside the public forum and they hurt three students,” Mr. Phyren said, adding that his group had also been denied entrance to the meeting in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nop district.

“I don’t know why Mr. Kem Sokha tried to avoid us and did not answer our questions.”

CNRP lawmaker Ho Vann, who attended Sunday’s forum, confirmed that the students had been barred from the gathering, but denied that any violence had taken place.

“I wish to completely deny that we fought with the students,” Mr. Vann said.

“We just asked them to move away because they wanted to create problems at the public forum,” he added. “We did not allow those people to attend the forum because they were not supporters of the CNRP.”

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor of rights group Licadho, who was also at the forum, said he had seen the students shoved away by CNRP supporters and bodyguards.

“I did not see a fight, but I saw the CNRP pushed the students about 100 meters away from the forum before local authorities arrived because they were afraid violence would take place,” he said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Phyren said he was planning to meet with a lawyer to prepare a complaint against the CNRP for its actions in Preah Sihanouk and Phnom Penh.

“We are now collecting evidence, and we will discuss with a lawyer to file a complaint against the bodyguards with the accusation of using violence against the students,” he said.

The law student added that his group—which claims to be independent of any political party—had been angered by the content of the audio clips, in which a man who sounds like Mr. Sokha alludes to sex and his mistress’ pregnancy, which he suggests “preventing.”

The student demonstrators were not the only ones barred from speaking to Mr. Sokha Sunday. At least 20 bodyguards and opposition supporters were seen quickly surrounding a journalist from a local television station who attempted to interview Mr. Sokha following the public forum. Asked about the incident, Mr. Vann claimed it had not taken place.

“We did not stop any journalists from trying to interview His Excellency Kem Sokha,” he said. “I think this information is not true because we are openly democratic, so all journalists are able to cover us freely.”

Cheap Sotheary, coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Preah Sihanouk province, said about 50 student protesters had turned out for the forum in Prey Nop on Saturday.

“The CNRP…prevented them from attending the forum as they were afraid the students were coming to make trouble at the event,” Ms. Sotheary said.

“The CNRP did not beat the students but they just took a megaphone from the students because they were criticizing His Excellency Kem Sokha over the love affairs with the woman from the …clips,” she added.

While the first audio recordings appeared on a newly created Facebook account purported to belong to Mr. Sokha’s mistress, more have since been posted on an account named “Truth of CNRP.”

Over the weekend, a number of new recordings allegedly of Mr. Sokha speaking to his mistress were uploaded by Truth of CNRP, including one clip in which he discusses purchasing a $70,000 apartment for his paramour.

In messages posted with the audio clips, the user describes the woman as Mr. Sokha’s “Yuon step wife,” using a sometimes derogatory term for Vietnamese.

In an email Sunday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy joined other CNRP officials in saying that the audio clips were merely a political ploy aimed at hurting the party, and said he did not care whether Mr. Sokha was actually the man in the recordings.

“I don’t know and I don’t care about the identity of the person,” he said. “It’s a matter of principle.”

(Additional reporting by Anthony Jensen)

[email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News