The hairdresser at the center of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha’s sex scandal admitted on Tuesday that it was her voice calling Mr. Sokha “lover” in audio recordings leaked online over the past two months, according to the prosecutor who questioned her for four hours.
“Yes, she admitted that the voices on the recordings really belong to her and Kem Sokha,” said deputy Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Sieng Sok, referring to Khem Chandaraty, 25, who is better known by her nickname “Srey Mom.”
Mr. Sok declined to say whether Mr. Sokha, who has refused to respond to the recordings since they emerged, would be called for questioning.
“This case comes under the legal procedure, so we will follow the legal procedure,” he said. “I cannot give information about this yet as it’s still under investigation.”
Ms. Chandaraty declined to speak with reporters as she was leaving the courthouse.
“I cannot give any comment because I feel that it’s hard to speak out now,” she said.
Ms. Chandaraty became embroiled in the snowballing political scandal as soon as it began, when lurid audio clips of a man and woman speaking by telephone were posted in late February to her Facebook page, which she said was hacked.
She was in court on Tuesday to answer to charges of prostitution and false testimony, the latter stemming from her denial that it was her voice in the recordings when she was questioned at the Interior Ministry’s antiterrorism police department last month.
The case was opened following a lawsuit filed with the municipal court by 20-year-old political activist Thy Sovantha, who claimed she was defamed by the recordings, in which the man and woman discuss rumors that she also had an affair with Mr. Sokha.
Try Chhuon, Ms. Chandaraty’s lawyer, said on Tuesday that the municipal court prosecutor only interrogated her client about the leaked audio recordings and that the charges of prostitution and false testimony were not mentioned.
“The court asked about audio recordings and relationship between my clients and related people,” Ms. Chhuon said, declining to name the other people.
“So far the court has not yet pressed charges against my client so I’m strongly hopeful that the court will not charge my client, as she is a victim.”
The prostitution charges stem from accusations that Mr. Sokha gifted his mistresses with cars and cash, though the entire case has been blasted by rights advocates as a purely political maneuver meant to damage the deputy opposition leader’s reputation.
Thida Khus, a prominent women’s rights advocate who heads the NGO Silaka, said outside the court on Tuesday that Ms. Chandaraty was clearly being used as a political pawn and that the nature of her relationship with Mr. Sokha was irrelevant.
“She’s the real victim…. I appeal to politicians to stop using her for their games,” she said.
“We don’t know whether or not it’s a true story, but it’s really unjust for her. First, it’s her private life. Second, the issue of secretly listening and recording someone for broadcast is against the Constitution and a human rights violation.”
Also present outside the court was a group of 15 students who have followed Mr. Sokha to CNRP events around the country, billing themselves as concerned citizens outraged by the politician’s moral transgressions.
Srey Chamroeun, the group’s leader, continued to argue that Mr. Sokha should step away from politics due to the scandal.
“He should end his political life since there is evidence proving that the leaked audio recording belongs to him,” he said.
“We do not have ill intentions to abuse Srey Mom’s rights,” he added. “We only need Kem Sokha to come out and give an explanation or offer a public apology at least.”