One hundred thirty-seven Cambodians are facing treason charges allegedly for plotting an attack against the government in 2019.
A report by Al Jazeera on Thursday said that 60 of the 137 individuals have been tried on the same day while the remaining 77 will face the same charges in another batch of hearing on March 4.
All individuals were slapped with charges for plotting and incitement. If proven guilty, they will face a maximum of 12 years in prison.
The treason stemmed from banning Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Sam Rainsy from returning to Cambodia in 2019 after being in exile for six years.
Cambodia then asked its Southeast Asian neighbors to similarly block Rainsy from entering their territories.
Elite security forces and armed members of the Bodyguard Unit were deployed on the streets to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to protect Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
According to the report, supporters and family members of the accused were prevented from observing the trial and that one mad had been detained.
A panel of three judges kicked off the hearing by presenting findings from investigators in the case, alleging that there was a planned structure for the CNRP president’s return.
The judges also said that people had been convinced to gather in large numbers to attack the government and undermine national security.
Two of the defendants were questioned in court. Kak Komphear, a former CNRP party official from Phnom Penh, said that he supported Rainsy’s return to Cambodia but that there was no conspiracy or plot against the government.
“I have no idea about this. I am speechless,” he was quoted as saying in court.
The trial was adjourned until January 28.
Chhun Bunhea, one of the accused, said he was disappointed that the trial was adjourned as he lives in the eastern province of Tbong Khmum, which is more than three hours away from Phnom Penh.
“If the court keeps up this kind of proceedings, I may not be able to afford the travel expenses to get here from Tbong Khmum,” he was quoted as telling reporters outside court.
Photo by Michael Coghlan/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)