Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Son Chhay denies defaming NEC at trial

Son Chhay denies defaming NEC at trial

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Candlelight Party vice-president Son Chhay leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 12, 2022. Heng Chivoan

Son Chhay denies defaming NEC at trial

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on September 29 heard the case of Candlelight Party vice-president Son Chhay, who has been sued by the National Election Committee (NEC) for public defamation in connection with his allegations of irregularities in the June 5 commune council elections.

Chhay has also been sued by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) for public defamation in relation to the elections.

NEC has demanded a public apology from Chhay after he alleged that voter fraud had taken place, in an interview with the online media outlet Cambodia Daily.

Following the one-morning hearing, Chhay spoke to the media outside the court and denied that he was at fault. He said that at no point had he defamed the NEC, saying that although he mentioned ballot fraud and intimidation, it did not affect NEC.

NEC has reiterated that the election process was monitored by national and international observers.

But Chhay claimed that he did not see them and only saw prosecutors and eight Australian embassy officials. He had met with the embassy officials but they were unwilling to make statements, saying they were just generally observing the election. Therefore, he said, the NEC’s claims were unsubstantiated.

“I was advocating before NEC released the official results. I just wanted to let them know that they could have done a better job as I did not see many observers. NEC should conduct an investigation and check for irregularities, not sue me,” he said.

Chhay asked why a complaint had been filed against him, but not against the four other political parties and several civil society organisations that issued statements regarding perceived irregularities in the election process.

He said the court will rule on the case on October 7, the same day that the case filed by the CPP seeking $1 million in damages will be heard.

He said his lawyer was unhappy with the hearing.

“This morning, my lawyer Choung Chou Ngy was not pleased because the judge gave more opportunity to the NEC’s lawyers to speak, again and again,” he said.

According to Chhay, the court claimed that it was because his lawyer did not raise his hand to ask for clarification.

Chou Ngy said his client’s views on the election process was his right to freedom of expression, not public defamation as alleged.

Plang Sophal, spokesman for the municipal court, said he could not answer on behalf of Chhay.

“The hearing was conducted in accordance with legal procedures and all parties were allowed to exercise their rights in accordance with the law,” he said.

Som Sorida, NEC deputy secretary-general and spokesman who testified in the courtroom, told The Post that Chhay’s arguments for an acquittal – along with those of his lawyer – were based on documents from the NGO Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), along with four other parties which are currently working to improve the electoral system.

Sorida said Chhay had alleged voter fraud but denied in the hearing that he did not do so. This was absurd, as the NEC organised and managed the elections. Political parties should not make accusations of stolen votes, he added.

According to Sorida, the prosecutors elected to charge Chhay with defamation under Article 305 of the Criminal Code, so clearly they believed they had a strong enough case to proceed.

NEC has pleaded that the court convict Chhay for public defamation and order him to issue a public letter of apology. NEC also asked the court to hand down the minimum sentence in accordance with laws.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10