Cambodian politician denies being involved in US plot to overthrow government
Photo: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits across from Kem Sokha, Acting President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the country’s opposition leader, at the Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on January 26, 2016, at the outset of a meeting following a series of conversations with national government leaders.
Phnom Penh (dpa) – Kem Sokha, the leader of Cambodia’s outlawed opposition party on Thursday denied allegations that he conspired with the US government, during the fourth day of hearings in his treason charge.
Sokha, president of the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), said in court that the US government did not instruct him to plot a revolution or follow a “Yugoslavian” grassroots protest strategy like the one that ousted Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.
In a 2013 video of Sokha giving a speech in Australia, which the government has put forward as the main evidence of his alleged US-backed colour revolution plot, the politician says he received political advice from the US.
“What did I learn during those trips [to the United States]. I learned about democracy … not about revolution, nor about starting war or military strategy,” Sokha said during the proceedings at the Phnom Penh Court on Thursday.
Sokha said his Cambodian US supporters urged him to follow the Yugoslavian model, a recommendation that he rejected. He said he stands by a non-violent and democratic process.
Defence lawyers for Sokha pushed the court to show the full recording of the speech in court this week, while government lawyers had earlier only shown a two-minute edited version.
Sokha faces up to 30 years in prison if he is found guilty. The CNRP was dissolved by Cambodia’s Supreme Court in November 2017, after making notable gains in that year’s election.
It was banned from participating in the 2018 national election, which saw Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party win all 125 parliamentary seats on offer.
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