Ky Tech, the head of the government’s legal team, reiterated that the seizure of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s property for auction in connection with a historic defamation case was decided legally by the judiciary, and not through politically motivated government action.

The government’s legal team – who were the plaintiffs in the case against Rainsy – donated over $50,000 of the damages awarded to the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital on January 7.

Ky Tech said that the proceeds from the sales of Rainsy’s house had been paid to the plaintiff and were now being used in the best interests of the nation and the people. The seizure and sale were completed according to the legal procedures, he insisted.

“The reason why we implemented this decision was to serve as a warning to those who would defame others, or attempt to distort facts in the public discourse. This particular defamation affected the honour of the entire Kingdom, so the court has moved to punish the individual responsible,” he added.

“The ruling was made by Cambodia’s independent judiciary, according to the rule of law. Our legal system and Constitution do not allow anyone to break the law without consequence. We had no choice but to bring the case to court and let justice be done,” he continued.

Ky Tech explained that the seizure of property to enforce the payment of court-awarded damages was common practice in many countries, not just in Cambodia, and not just in the case of Rainsy.

National Assembly president Heng Samrin’s cabinet chief Keo Piseth was pleased that the ruling had cleared Samrin’s name and restored his honour.

“The court has given justice to [Samrin]. The population are aware that he was one of the founders of the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP],” he said.

The total proceeds from the sale of Rainsy’s property – the former headquarters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – were divided into four parts.

His court fines were paid and added to the state coffers, and damages were awarded to the three plaintiffs.

Samrin’s award was donated to Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital on January 7. Hun Sen’s damages were donated to a team of legal volunteers who defend vulnerable and impoverished people, while Minister of Interior Sar Kheng earmarked his share to build schools and orphanages in the provinces.

Former senior CNRP official Meach Sovannara said the case against the former CNRP president and the subsequent seizure of his assets were politically motivated. The international community could clearly see that the government had pressured the judiciary, he added.

“I see this case as nothing more than political competition – without the integrity and virtue which politics demand. This method does not provide accountability or transparency, nor does it put the people of Cambodia first,” he continued.

He said veteran politicians, both within the ruling party and the opposition, should set a better example for the next generation to follow.

“They should compete to promote the national interest, not to score points against one another,” he added.

Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, claimed that the defamatory case was purely about the actions of one individual, and did not concern politics at all.

“This case did not concern politics. It was about one person seeking to harm the dignity and honour of others. The result would have been the same, regardless of the individual concerned. Rainsy broke the law, and the fact that he was once a politician is irrelevant. Anyone who breaks the law will face consequences,” he added.