In an ironic twist to the increasingly bitter lead up to next month’s national election, opposition leader Kem Sokha was in the midst of a press conference accusing the CPP of dirty campaign tricks when a woman showed up claiming to be his abandoned and long-suffering mistress.
The woman, 41-year-old Keo Sophannary, was first interviewed earlier this month about her alleged affair with Mr. Sokha by Apsara TV, which is owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP.
Mr. Sokha’s alleged irate mistress is just the latest event to materialize that calls the reputation of the opposition leader into question.
Last month, the government released an audio recording of Mr. Sokha in which he allegedly claimed that Khmer Rouge atrocities at Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng prison were fabricated by Vietnam.
Mr. Sokha, acting president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), had called Wednesday’s press conference at the party’s headquarters to accuse the CPP of clandestinely marshaling crowds in Kampot and Takeo provinces over the past few days to disrupt his campaign stops with loud music and trucks to block his access.
“Kandal province was more serious than the other places, maybe because the prime minister is the lawmaker candidate there,” Mr. Sokha said. “It’s lucky there were more than a thousand of our supporters there who helped me get out. This is such a bad and cheap trick,” he said.
“I and the CNRP would like to call on the government to maintain political stability and security so that there is a free and fair election…to prevent clashes and violence and ensure fair play by all parties,” he added.
“We are concerned about our security and the government must be responsible for this.”
While Mr. Sokha was speaking inside party headquarters, Ms. Sophannary had arrived outside the compound’s front gates with her mother, Sam Phalla.
“Kem Sokha is my husband,” she announced to the assembled reporters, claiming that she and the opposition leader had started their affair in 1998, and had even adopted two children who were now 6 and 8 years old.
“He left me five years ago and he promised to give me some money,” she said.
Ms. Sophannary said she had tried repeatedly to make contact with Mr. Sokha but to no avail, and denied being paid or coerced into making her story public.
“Nobody has paid me to do this; I came here out of anger,” she said.
“I am here to demand that he support me because I’ve had heart surgery and I broke my arm,” she added, though both arms appeared healthy.
Ms. Sophannary said she had also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Sokha at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this year demanding $10,000 and had been questioned by investigating Judge Pech Maren. Judge Maren declined to comment when asked to confirm the case.
Mr. Sokha, who is married with two adult children, left the compound through a back exit without meeting Ms. Sophannary.
Contacted afterward, Mr. Sokha said he knew nothing of such a lawsuit and denied even knowing the woman who is claiming to be his estranged mistress.
“I did not have any relationship with this woman; I do not know her at all,” he said. “As you can see, they [the CPP] are creating trouble in any way, aiming to disrupt my political activities, and there will be more trouble for me.”
CPP lawmaker and National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun denied his party was involved in dirty tricks by putting Ms. Sophannary up to her claims about Mr. Sokha.
“This is her personal case; we had nothing to do with this,” he said.
Mr. Vun also denied any CPP role in the crowds disrupting Mr. Sokha’s campaign stops, attributing them to a groundswell of public anger over his comments about Tuol Sleng, which Mr. Sokha has denied making and refuses to apologize for.
Government officials also denied organizing a rally of about 10,000 people in Phnom Penh on Sunday against Mr. Sokha, though participants readily revealed that local government authorities had supplied them with everything from food to transportation to the rally, and even newly printed protest banners denouncing the opposition leader.