Cambodian news site details phone calls between opposition party official, mistress

A Cambodian pro-government news site published details from a telephone conversation between a top opposition party official and his alleged mistress, prompting one political observer to urge authorities to investigate the apparent telephone tapping. 
FreshNews cited a Facebook page called “khmer leak” in its report about several phone calls between Candlelight Party Secretary General Lee Sothearayuth and his alleged mistress.
Publishing a private telephone conversation without consent in an attempt to destroy an opponent’s reputation and dignity is a breach of privacy, political commentator Seng Sary said. If the release of private telephone conversation was politically motivated, the people who ordered the release are conducting dirty politics, he said.
“This is unethical and shouldn’t happen in a civilized society,” he said.
FreshNews also published a telephone conversation between opposition leader Kem Sokha and his alleged mistress in 2016. The outlet previously released a telephone conversation between Ho Vann, a senior official in the now-banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, and his alleged mistress as well.
More arrests of opposition activists
The report comes as the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen have been working to silence and intimidate opposition figures ahead of the July general elections. 
Earlier this month, Kem Sokha was sentenced to 27 years in prison for treason. And earlier this week, two opposition activists were arrested in Phnom Penh after they posted comments on Facebook that seemed to compare Hun Sen with King Norodom Sihamoni.
Activists from the Candlelight Party — now the main challenger to the ruling party — recently said that police have been monitoring their meetings and local authorities have been defacing and stealing party signs and billboards. Candlelight Party activists in almost all provinces have reported cases of intimidation and harassment, party spokesman Kim Sour Phirith said in early March. 
On Friday, three Candlelight Party activists were arrested and charged with falsifying documents. The arrests were made four hours before the conviction of 13 people in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on similar charges from last year related to the formation of the National Heart Party.
The Ministry of Interior said last year that the small political party collected several hundred forged thumbprints on documents it filed when it registered ahead of the 2022 commune elections. 
Seam Pluk, president of the National Heart Party, was convicted on Friday and sentenced to two years and six months in prison. The other 12 defendants were given two-year sentences, but they remain at-large.
The three Candlelight Party activists who were arrested Friday were also charged in the National Heart Party case. The three defendants only recently joined the Candlelight Party.
The wife of one of Friday’s arrestees said her husband – Touch Teng, Candlelight Party’s committee chairman for Kampong Cham province – wasn’t involved with the collection of signatures and thumbprints when he worked for the National Heart Party. 
“This is a politically motivated arrest because my husband is one of the party’s leaders,” the wife said. 
The National Heart Party’s case is an old one that has only been revived now that the election is drawing near and the Candlelight Party has been gathering supporters, Kim Sour Phirith said.
Cambodia’s law on phone tapping
Radio Free Asia couldn’t reach National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun about Friday’s arrests or about FreshNews’ report on Lee Sothearayuth’s phone calls. 
Re-broadcasting a private conversation is a crime, Khmer Student Intelligent League Association President Koeu Saray said, pointing to Article 368 of Cambodia’s penal code, which states that anyone convicted of tapping a phone conversation without consent can be imprisoned from two months to one year. 
“It was embarrassing for FreshNews to post it,” Koeu Saray said. “It is a concern. Cambodia has a law but it is not being enforced.”
The leaked telephone conversation has nothing to do with the CPP, party spokesman Sok Ey San said. Media outlets have the legal right to air such content, and individuals who are affected can request a correction, he added.
RFA was unable to reach Lee Sothearayuth for comment. 
Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


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