A French court on September 1 heard the details of the case filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen against Sam Rainsy back in 2019 after Rainsy claimed that Hun Sen had been behind the deaths of union president Chea Vichea and former National Police chief Hok Lundy.
The opening hearing in the defamation case was a long time coming. Hun Sen and deputy chief of the National Police Dy Vichea filed against Rainsy for defamation over his claims that Hun Sen was behind the 2008 helicopter crash that had killed Vichea’s father Hok Lundy in Svay Rieng province.
In addition to accusing Cambodia’s head of government of executing a conspiracy to murder his own administration’s top police official, Rainsy in those same remarks had alleged that the prime minister was responsible for having union leader Chea Vichea killed in 2004.
For more than five hours of the hearing, Rainsy – the defendant in the case who was charged with defamation and thereby compelled to appear in French court – tried to focus all discussion of what took place on the political rivalry taking place between Rainsy and Hun Sen both then and now.
Conversely, the prime minister’s lawyers vociferously demanded hard evidence of such crimes before the court risked doing further damage to their client’s reputation by acting as if they had any merit to debate in the first place.
“I am pleased because it is a chance for me to raise discussions about the general political situation in Cambodia,” Rainsy told the French court.
However, instead of offering any defense of his claims, Rainsy began to allege that atrocities took place in Cambodia regularly through political violence and that there had been impunity against regular people, journalists, human rights activists and democracy activists.
One of Hun Sen's attorneys, Luc Brossolet, tried to quickly write down Rainsy's statements despite their rapidity and he noted that what was most interesting to him was how Rainsy was unable to answer direct questions.
“What we have seen is that Sam Rainsy cannot answer questions nor can he explain his own words,” he said.
He added that Rainsy's baseless answers were easily proven to be unsubstantiated allegations.
Ky Tech, head of the Cambodian government's legal team present in court that day said that Rainsy's allegations were so serious that in the context in which they were made – against the current ruler of an independent and sovereign state and without any evidentiary basis – they could not deem his reckless actions or speech acceptable.
Tech further clarified to the court that all Hun Sen was demanding was a symbolic penalty for Rainsy of a one euro compensation, because what really is important for Hun Sen in matters of honour such as this one was that justice be carried out.
The French court officials adjourned the hearing after arguments from both sides and declared that the verdict is due to be announced on October 10.