Authoritarian Tech

Kem Sokha’s trial begins in Cambodia — Coda Follows Up

We don’t just follow stories, we follow up. Last year, Andrew Nachemson reported on a government disinformation campaign which targeted opposition leaders in Cambodia, including Kem Sokha, the president of Cambodia National Rescue Party. Last month, Sokha was put on trial after being charged with treason. He faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty. Coda Story’s Chaewon Chung follows up. 

Human rights organizations have expressed concern that Sokha won’t receive a fair trial after the court announced there would be no room for journalists in the courtroom.

“Arbitrary restrictions on trial monitoring were put in place ahead of Kem Sokha’s trial,” wrote an Amnesty International spokesperson in an email to Coda Story. “The court initially contrived to ensure that no journalists or human rights monitors were allowed inside the courtroom, further undermining the credibility of an already farcical trial,” continued the spokesperson.

The human rights group has called for charges against Sokha to be dropped. 

Sokha was arrested in September 2017 after an old video showed him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from U.S. pro-democracy organizations.

Chan Thul Prak, a Cambodian journalist at Reuters, wrote on Twitter about his struggles to get access to the courtroom on the day of the trial. “I won’t be allowed to cover Kem Sokha’s trial proceedings, courtroom is full, police said as journalists are chased away from even standing in front of the court,” he tweeted.

“Many activists and ordinary people have been arbitrarily imprisoned for expressing their peaceful and legitimate political opinions online,” a spokesperson for Amnesty International wrote in an email to Coda. “These developments, combined with attacks on the free media and human rights defenders, have engendered a climate of fear in Cambodia.”

The trial continues.

Chaewon Chung

Chaewon is a multimedia journalist with Coda Story. She graduated with a Master’s in journalism from Columbia Journalism School and has also reported with SCMP, BUST, Korea Exposé, and others.

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