Political commentator Kim Sok said on Wednesday that he would ask prosecutors to delay his questioning in a $500,000 lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen until he finds a lawyer, even as the filing of another related lawsuit from the premier reportedly loomed today.
Meanwhile, a friend of Mr. Sok, who was detained overnight at a police station after dropping the analyst at his home following a Monday evening radio interview, contended his arrest was unrelated to Mr. Sok’s case after being released.
The prime minister filed the initial lawsuit on Monday and told Mr. Sok to remain in the country after the commentator appeared to suggest that the ruling party was responsible for the assassination of political analyst Kem Ley.
Mr. Sok said he planned to file a letter today with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court asking them to delay summoning him for questioning on Friday, in a case that has moved through the court system with uncharacteristic haste.
“I will go to file a letter asking for a delay to give answers because I haven’t been able to find a defense lawyer yet,” Mr. Sok said.
“But I would like to send a message to Prime Minister Hun Sen that he should not be worried that I’m asking the court to delay questioning me, because I’m not going to flee or run away at all.”
Mr. Hun Sen’s lawyer told government mouthpiece Fresh News on Wednesday that the prime minister would file another lawsuit today based on improper comments Mr. Sok made to Radio Free Asia (RFA) when he was explaining his initial comment.
Mr. Sok argued that when he said “they” in his initial comments about those responsible for Kem Ley’s killing, he was referring to “a system under the control of the current government. It allowed them to have a system that has human killing and it did not find the killer, not just of Dr. Kem Ley, but also other previous activists.”
On the sidelines of the legal action, Mr. Sok’s friend, Sean Chen, a land broker, was arrested with a third man after driving Mr. Sok home from Voice of America’s Phnom Penh studio on Monday night. Mr. Chen said the nearly 36 hours the pair spent at Daun Penh police station was perfectly normal.
“Actually, we were stopped and brought to the police station as my friend, the driver, didn’t have enough paperwork,” he said. “They set me free at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and it’s not related to Kim Sok.”
Mr. Sok said police had likely intimidated the pair. He said that before Mr. Chen’s arrest, his friend advised the analyst to seek clemency from Hun Manet, Mr. Hun Sen’s eldest son.
“But I told him at that time about my stance: that I would never seek any compromise and I would never leave the country since I’m willing to battle at the court over the premier’s lawsuit against me,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Ouch Sony)