Dozens of students and youth protested outside the opposition party’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday calling for CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha to come clean about audio clips that have circulated online this week, purported to be recordings of him speaking with a mistress about topics including sex and a possible pregnancy.
The group of about 60 youth, who claimed to have no political affiliation, submitted a petition calling for Mr. Sokha to address their concerns or face further protests.
“We do not know whether or not it’s really the sound of His Excellency Kem Sokha. That is why we are here to find out the truth,” said Peng Phyren, a 24-year-old student at the Royal University of Law and Economics who was among the protest leaders.
“We, the youth, have doubts about this, so we need the answer,” he told reporters.
Mr. Phyren denied that the youth were acting in the interest of the ruling CPP or had any other political agenda, explaining that they simply wanted to know the truth.
“The only purpose of submitting a petition is to demand that His Excellency Kem Sokha explains his relation to recently leaked audio clips involving his sexual scandal with mistresses,” he said.
Shortly after arriving outside the CNRP’s Meanchey district headquarters, three representatives of the youth activists were invited inside to meet with opposition lawmaker Ho Vann to submit their petition.
Sun Sambou, a 21-year-old student from the Institute of International Business, called on Mr. Sokha to meet with the protesters and directly address the audio clips.
“Because it damages his reputation and morality as a leader of a political party, and he’s a role model for youth,” he added. “If he did this, it would hurt us and make us lose trust in him.”
“He needs to speak out and explain this or we will follow him at his public forum in Preah Sihanouk province,” Mr. Sambou said of a planned CNRP meeting in the province today.
Mr. Sokha did not appear to be at the headquarters, and Mr. Vann declined to speak with reporters.
Speaking by telephone after the protest, which lasted for just over an hour, Mr. Phyren said that about 100 youth would make the trip to Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nop district today to continue demanding a response from Mr. Sokha.
“He cannot avoid telling us the truth because we will ask him at his public forum to confirm whether the audio clips about the sex scandal were his or not, because we are also citizens with the right to raise questions at his forum,” he said.
Opposition spokesman Yem Ponhearith said yesterday that the petition from the youth would be delivered to party leaders for review.
“Our officials already accepted the petition and it will be sent to leaders to look at and consider,” he said, adding that he did not wish to speculate about the political affiliation of the protesters.
He said, however, that they would not be welcome at today’s forum.
“It’s the party’s internal forum in order to send political messages to the party’s leaders and to review the structure, so outsiders cannot get involved,” he said.
Mr. Sokha has not publicly responded to the recordings, the first batch of which were posted on Monday to a newly created Facebook page allegedly belonging to his mistress, “Mon Srey.” More have since been posted online through a Facebook account named “Truth of CNRP.”
Following a meeting with party activists on Thursday, Mr. Sokha said that supporters should stay focused on the CNRP’s political objectives and not be distracted by provocations.
While opposition officials have repeatedly said they are not concerned by the audio clips, observers have raised concern about how and why the private conversations were recorded and made public.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, who attended Friday’s protest, said that apart from distracting people from pressing political issues, the release of the audio was likely illegal.
“Firstly, regarding the leaking of audio clips, it is also written in the criminal law under Article 301, which states that the acts of listening and recording private speeches without authorization is punishable by imprisonment between one month up to one year in prison,” Mr. Sam Ath said.
“On the other hand, if the audio clips are released by mobile companies, the mobile companies shall be responsible for this because it makes customers lose trust for having their confidential issues easily leaked,” he said.
However, the user behind the Truth of CNRP appeared undeterred, posting a message to Facebook on Thursday night promising to release more clips of other CNRP leaders talking to their mistresses.
“I would like to inform a number of other senior officials in CNRP that ‘in relation to Mr. Kem Sokha’s sex scandal having affairs with both Cambodian and Yuon step wives as well as many other mistresses’ I have many audio clips and documents,” the message said, using a sometimes derogatory term for Vietnamese.
“Therefore, it’s better to keep calm and let Mr. Kem Sokha to be solely responsible because other senior leaders in CNRP also engage in lots of scandals that I (Truth of CNRP) have not yet released!”