The ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Monday sued a prominent NGO leader and critic of the government for telling RFA’s Khmer Service that the party was using a sex scandal to pressure a rival political figure.
CPP spokesman Sok Ey San told RFA’s Khmer Service that the CPP decided to sue Future Forum Director Ou Virak for defamation because he told RFA: “The ruling party’s strategy is to put pressure on Kem Sokha and his finances.”
The suit was filed soon after Prime Minister Hun Sen posted a message in his Facebook page saying: “The CPP has sued Future Forum Ou Virak to Phnom Penh Court.” In his post, Hun Sen said the lawsuit seeks compensation of 400 million riel (U.S. $100,000)
Kem Sokha is deputy leader of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, and he is embroiled in a sex scandal over an affair he allegedly had with Khem Chandaraty, 25, who is better known by her nickname “Srey Mom.”
Earlier this month prosecutors told local media that Khem Chandaraty admitted that it was her voice on recordings calling Kem Sokha her lover. The recordings were posted on her Facebook page which she said was hacked.
In reference to the scandal Ou Virak told RFA the ruling party’s strategy is to pressure Kem Sokha and his finances.
Sok Ey San said the comment has damaged the CPP’s reputation.
“The CPP wasn’t behind the scandal but he accused us of framing Kem Sokha to generate a scandal,” he said.
He deflected criticism that the alleged mistress case is another example of Hun Sen and the CPP attempting to pressure a government critic into silence.
“This is a not a freedom of expression issue. We are suing those who defame us,” he said. “The CPP has assigned me as a main person to sue Ou Virak.”
The CPP will sue anyone who defames the party, he added.
Ou Virak said he is disappointed about the lawsuit, but was unapologetic in his criticism, saying the government is using the scandal to deflect people’s attention from issues like global warming and the drought that really effect Cambodian’s lives.
“I am sad. Politicians should take pity on the people and the country,” he said. “I stand by my comment.”
"Lawsuits against Kem Sokha, opposition party and activists are part of the CPP’s strategy,” he said. “This can lead the CPP to suffer a decline it its popularity.”
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said that the government shouldn’t take legal actions against the leaders of nongovernmental organizations because it affects the democratic process in the country.
“This is not a democratic country when we take actions against criticism or prosecute them,” he said. “The ruling party must learn how to forgive.”
Reported for RFA's Khmer Service by Thai Vuthy and Huot Vuthy. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.