Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy hit with latest defamation conviction, fined $1M

Rainsy hit with latest defamation conviction, fined $1M

Social media star Thy Sovantha, seen speaking outside the Phnom Penh court earlier this year, won a defamation case against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday.
Social media star Thy Sovantha, seen speaking outside the Phnom Penh court earlier this year, won a defamation case against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday. Hong Menea

Rainsy hit with latest defamation conviction, fined $1M

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy was found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay 4 billion riel (about $1 million) to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday for alleging that the premier bribed pro-government activist Thy Sovantha to attack the opposition.

The accusation stemmed from messages leaked from Sovantha’s Facebook account between her and Hun Sen in November. The messages dealt with undermining the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, with the prime minister calling Sovantha “grandchild” and offering her $1 million.

Sovantha claimed her page was hacked and the messages fabricated.

During Friday’s hearing, the court played a 26-minute video from January of Rainsy speaking to Cambodian supporters in France.

“Hun Sen bribes Thy Sovantha $1 million . . . He bribed her to do bad things, to attack and cause trouble to the CNRP, to hold protests,” Rainsy said in the clip.

Hun Sen was represented by Ky Tech, the same lawyer who represented the government last month in its case seeking the dissolution of the CNRP.

“What Sam Rainsy said was not true and it affects the reputation of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia,” Tech said.

Rainsy, who lives in self-exile in France to avoid a slew of similar convictions widely seen as politically motivated, was found guilty in absentia. His lawyer, Sam Sokong, challenged the validity of the verdict, in part because Sovantha was not present in the courtroom to testify.

“The prime minister is a public figure, and in a democratic society he should not mind criticism . . . The court should have the written statement of Thy Sovantha denying that, or summons her to testify here,” he said.

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy gives an interview on French TV5 Monde television network earlier this month in France. Photo supplied
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy gives an interview on French TV5 Monde television network earlier this month in France. Photo supplied

Yoeurng Sotheara, legal expert at election watchdog Comfrel, said the latest conviction was “the same as the cases before” and “politically motivated”.

“In a democracy with freedom expression . . . the right to express criticism to public figures is granted in the Constitution,” Sotheara said.

“Not everything is defamation,” he added.

Rainsy said in an email on Friday that he is “confident” the more than 400 leaked messages are legitimate, and could be proven so.

“If someone had wanted to invent something to discredit the concerned two persons, they would not have needed to fabricate so many fake messages,” Rainsy said via email on Friday.

“Moreover, nobody apart from the two would have known so many details about their relationship . . . They have never been convincingly denied by Hun Sen.”

Mu Sochua, the former opposition deputy president who fled the country in October, said the conviction against Rainsy would be another black eye on the justice system.

“These series of political cases will continue to make Cambodia a country known for its mockery of justice,” she said by email. “Mr. Hun Sen has nothing to prove but his zero tolerance of true justice.”

Updated: Monday 1 January 2017, 6:52am

A previous version of this article misattributed a case to lawyer Ky Tech. It has now been updated. We apologise for the error.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway