Kem Sokha (Khmer: កឹម សុខា; born 27 June 1953) is a Cambodian politician and activist who most recently served as the President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). He served as the Minority Leader, the highest ranking opposition parliamentarian, of the National Assembly from December 2016 to January 2017, and previously as the First Vice President of the National Assembly from August 2014 to October 2015. He represented Kampong Cham as its Member of Parliament (MP) from 2008 to 2017. From 2007 to 2012, Sokha was the leader of the Human Rights Party, which he founded.
|Leader of the Opposition|
16 November 2015 – 31 January 2017
|Prime Minister||Hun Sen|
|Preceded by||Sam Rainsy|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|First Vice President of the National Assembly|
26 August 2014 – 30 October 2015
|Preceded by||Nguon Nhel|
|Succeeded by||You Hockry|
|Born||27 June 1953|
Tram Kak, Takéo, Cambodia, French Indochina
|Political party||Cambodia National Rescue Party (2012–2017)|
Human Rights Party (2007–2012)
Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (1993–1999)
Khmer People's National Liberation Front (1992–1993)
|Children||2, including Monovithya|
|Education||University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (M.Sc) |
Royal University of Law and Economics
Sokha was arrested and imprisoned at a detention centre in Tbong Khmum Province on 3 September 2017 under allegations of treason. In November 2017, the CNRP was dissolved, and 118 of its members, including Sokha, were banned from politics for five years. On 10 September 2018, more than a year after his arrest, he was released on bail, and subsequently placed under house arrest. On 10 November 2019, Sokha was released from house arrest.
Kem Sokha pursued a law degree at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh, but dropped out in his second year before receiving a scholarship to Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) in 1981. He studied at the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, and graduated with a Master of Science degree in Chemistry in 1986.
His political career began in 1993, when he was elected a representative for Takéo Province; at that time he was a member of Son Sann's Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party. In 1999, he joined the royalist FUNCINPEC and subsequently elected a senator. He resigned from his Senate seat in 2001. In 2002, he founded the Cambodian Center for Human Rights but left that organisation to join politics in 2005. He founded the Human Rights Party, which came third in the 2008 elections.
Kem Sokha is well known for his weekly town hall meetings at local level throughout the country. He was the first to introduce a free and open forum discussing issues concerning civic and political rights, as well as social and economic development, at village level in Cambodia. Kem Sokha is known for his non-violent, political tolerant policy standing on democratic and unity principles. His words are often quoted and repeated by ordinary Cambodians. His phrase "Do Min Do" (literal translation to English: "Change or no change") became the anthem for the Cambodia National Rescue Party's election Campaign in July 2013, which drew an unprecedented amount of youth participation.
On 26 August 2014, Sokha was elected by the National Assembly as its First Vice President with 116 votes, the first opposition MP to hold the office. On 30 October 2015, he was ousted from the vice presidency by a vote of 68–0 following disagreements with the ruling party. On 9 September 2016, after months under house arrest, Sokha was sentenced to five months in prison after refusing to appear in court for questioning in a prostitution case against him. He was later granted a royal pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni. Following his release, he was officially appointed as Minority Leader. However, the positions of Minority Leader and Majority Leader were abolished altogether by the National Assembly on 31 January 2017 following a proposal by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
On 2 March 2017, Sokha was elected President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party at the party's congress, along with three other deputies. Under his leadership, the party made sweeping gains in the June 2017 local elections, winning 482 of 1,646 communes.
In September 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Sokha with "treason and espionage", and for allegedly orchestrating the 2014 Veng Sreng street protests. He was arrested at his home on September 3, 2017. Hun Sen and other Cambodian government officials alleged that Sokha was conspiring with the United States of America. Sokha's lawyers have alleged violations of their client's rights under Article 149 of the Criminal Procure Code. He was released on bail on 10 September 2018, more than a year after his arrest, but was placed under house arrest. He was released from house arrest on 10 November 2019 but is banned from travelling outside the country and taking part in political activities.
- "Kem Sokha, In His Own Words". VOA Khmer. Voice of America. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
- "លោក កឹម សុខា ត្រូវបានបោះឆ្នោតជ្រើសរើសជាអនុប្រធានទី១សភា" [Kem Sokha elected as first vice president of National Assembly]. Radio Free Asia (in Khmer). 26 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
- "Sokha stripped of National Assembly vice presidency". The Phnom Penh Post. 30 October 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
- Kuch, Naren (31 January 2017). "Culture of Dialogue Faces Official Demise". The Cambodia Daily. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Court rules Kem Sokha guilty". The Phnom Penh Post. 9 September 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
- "ព្រះមហាក្សត្រប្រទានលើកលែងទោសប្រធានស្តីទីបក្សប្រឆាំង លោក កឹម សុខា" (in Khmer). Radio Free Asia. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- "Sokha to Replace Rainsy in Parliamentary Position". The Cambodia Daily. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
- Meas Sokchea & Erin Handley (3 March 2017). "New era of CNRP begins". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- "Both Sides Claim Victory in Cambodian Commune Elections". Voice of America. 5 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Titthara, May (September 7, 2017). "Sokha implicated over Veng Sreng". The Khmer Times.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has promised to take legal action against opposition leader Kem Sokha for allegedly orchestrating the 2014 Veng Sreng street protests.
- Agence-France Presse (September 5, 2017). "Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha arrested for treason". The Japan Times.
- Oung, Sereyvuth; Lipes, Joshua (September 6, 2017). "Cambodia's Hun Sen Vows to Lead For One More Decade". Translated by Muong, Nareth. Radio Free Asia.
Prak Sokhorn claimed that the video showed Kem Sokha had been conspiring with the U.S. since 1993 to overthrow Hun Sen and told ambassadors that the opposition leader’s video statement was deemed in flagrante delicto, allowing police to arrest him despite his parliamentary immunity.
- Chheng, Niem; Kijewski, Leonie (September 7, 2017). "Sokha's lawyers slam lack of representation". The Phnom Penh Post. Archived from the original on September 7, 2017.
- "Cambodia releases opposition leader Kem Sokha on bail". British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC News. 10 September 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
- "Kem Sokha Released From House Arrest, Still Prohibited From Leaving The Country And Engaging In Political Activity". VOA Cambodia. 10 November 2019. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
- Kem Sokha
- Kem Sokha on Facebook
- Human Rights Party
- Cambodia National Rescue Party
- CCHR - Cambodian Center for Human Rights website
- Newsweek article
- Cambodia arrests rights activist, Guy De Launey, BBC, Phnom Penh
- Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism
- Institute of Chemical Technology
- Cambodian Leader Cracks Down in Bid to Solidify Power--New York Times
- BBC: While in U.S., Cambodians Get a Lesson on Rights From Home
- Cambodian Center for Human Rights
| Minority Leader of the National Assembly
| Vice President of the National Assembly of Cambodia
|New office|| Member of the Senate
Chhim Siek Leng
|Party political offices|
| President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party
|New office|| Vice President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party
Eng Chhai Eang
|New office|| President of the Human Rights Party