The United States has urged a court in Cambodia on Thursday to allow journalists to attend the treason trial of opposition party leader Kem Sokha. Sokha who was arrested in 2017 is accused of plotting to overthrow longtime leader Hun Sen. Along with the American officials, a coalition of 82 Cambodian civil society groups has also urged the court to open the trial for public, independent media and civil society groups.
Following his arrest, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen cracked down on opposition, civil society groups and media in the run-up to 2018 parliament elections. According to International media, reporters were barred from the morning sessions of the court proceedings which took place on Wednesday and Thursday. The hearings were attended by diplomats and other officials.
Emily Zeelberg, a spokeswoman for US embassy told international media that the US is aware that the Cambodian court officials have excluded media and civil society members from the proceedings and has urged the court to allow them in. She further said that freedom of expression and the press, an active civil society and tolerance of dissenting views are vital components of any democracy.
International media, citing reports from lawyers on both sides said that the court has postponed Kem Sokha’s trial proceedings to next week.
A Human Rights Watch official on Wednesday said the trial of a top Cambodian opposition leader on treason charges is "completely bogus". Speaking in Bangkok, Deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division Phil Robertson called on the Cambodian government to "end this charade right now".
Opposition leader Kem Sokha was charged with treason on Wednesday, more than two years after he was arrested in what is widely seen as a politically motivated prosecution. His party was then dissolved by Cambodia's Supreme Court in November 2017. He could be imprisoned for up to 30 years if found guilty.
(with inputs from agencies)