Cambodia’s Supreme Court Upholds Defamation Verdict Against Acting Opposition Chief Sam Rainsy


2018-12-19
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cambodia-sam-rainsy-tokyo-april-2018.jpg Cambodia's self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, April 13, 2018.
AP Photo

Cambodia’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling to fine the acting president of the country’s now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy for defamation in connection with a lawsuit brought against him by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In December last year, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered Sam Rainsy—who has been living in self-imposed exile since 2015 to avoid convictions on charges widely seen as politically motivated—to pay 4 billion riel (U.S. $1 million) for a January 2017 Facebook post which alleged that Hun Sen had offered pro-government social media activist Thy Sovantha U.S. $1 million to attack the CNRP.

Sam Rainsy, who was found guilty in absentia, was also ordered to pay a fine of 10 million riel (U.S. $2,500) to the state.

On Wednesday, presiding judge Kim Sathavy dismissed Sam Rainsy’s appeal and said the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s ruling, and an Appeal Court verdict earlier this year that upheld the ruling, were correct.

CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua, who is also living in self-imposed exile, called the Supreme Court’s decision “unjust and unacceptable.”

“Cambodian court decisions at all levels are illegitimate,” she said.

“They regularly fail to provide justice to members of the public and particularly to the leaders of the opposition. It is very unfortunate for Cambodia.”

The acting CNRP president’s accusation stemmed from leaked social media messages between Hun Sen and Thy Sovantha in November 2016, in which they discussed bringing down the opposition party, which was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017 for allegedly working to topple the government with the backing of Washington.

In the leaked messages, Hun Sen calls Thy Sovantha “grandchild” and offers her U.S. $1 million. Thy Sovantha has said her page was hacked.

The Prime Minister has demanded that Sam Rainsy pay him compensation as ordered by the court and has promised to seize the acting CNRP chief’s home in Phnom Penh if he does not.

On Wednesday, Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, told the Khmer Times he would seek an order from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to seize Sam Rainsy’s house, which was the now-dissolved CNRP’s headquarters, for compensation.

Reported by Tin Zakariya for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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