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CPP says treason trial is obstacle
PHNOM PENH--Kem Sokha, former leader of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), says he wants peaceful negotiations with the Cambodian government as commune elections approach.
However, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) says there is no way to negotiate as Sokha is on trial, accused of conspiring with foreigners to overthrow the government.
Sokha, who currently has no political affiliation, said, “I hope [the head of government] will resolve this issue and I am ready to talk for the interests of the nation as well as the people and to push for a truly liberal, multi-party democracy in accordance with the Cambodian Constitution.”
Before getting into a car bound for Phnom Penh Municipal Court on March 2, Sokha told reporters he supported the view of Prime Minister Hun Sen that only by peaceful negotiations with all parties can war-torn countries such as Myanmar, Ukraine and Russia end conflicts or wars.
Hun Sen has often talked recently about crises in foreign countries, including Myanmar.
Meng Sopheary, one of Sokha’s four defense lawyers, told reporters at the court, “We, as lawyers, follow the procedure, but I am confident that politicians will discuss for the benefit of all Cambodians.”
CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said wars cannot be resolved by fighting. Only negotiations could end war or conflict, as the Prime Minister said.
However Eysan said Cambodia is not involved in a war as in some countries. Cambodia is at peace and must follow the law. It is not possible to negotiate legally with Sokha.
“He is on trial, so there is no way for negotiation,” he said. “Legal matters have to be resolved through the court before discussing other things.”
As the elections approach, Sokha’s case remains unresolved. He said it had dragged on for about four years, so it was time for the court to drop the charge.
“If there is no solution, it is clear that there is an intention not to let the opposition leader or party be the choice of the people or participate in the election,” Sokha said. “Then it is difficult to recognize the election as free and fair.”
Sok Eysan responded, "It is just his opinion. The general public does not have the same opinion.”
The 5th commune elections will be held on June 5. The date for the 7th national election in 2023 has not yet been set.
Sokha has been accused of conspiring with foreigners to overthrow the government since Sept. 2017. According to the Cambodian Penal Code, people charged with treason face between 15 and 30 years in prison.
The March 3 hearing is the 32nd for Sokha. The next one will be on March 9.