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Prime Minister piles on with lawsuit

Prime Minister Hun Sen talks about investment opportunities in Cambodia at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
Prime Minister Hun Sen talks about investment opportunities in Cambodia at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Facebook

Prime Minister piles on with lawsuit

A lawyer for Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lodged a defamation suit against exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy for alleging the premier gave $1 million to social media celebrity Thy Sovantha to fund her campaign against the opposition.

The complaint, filed at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court by Ky Tech, came just a day after Sovantha, 21, lodged an almost identical lawsuit against the CNRP president for making the claim during a public forum in France on January 14.

Tech said the allegation – which arose from leaked online chats purportedly between the premier and Sovantha published on the latter’s Facebook account – was untrue.

“In the complaint, we ask [the court] to charge and convict according to the law on public defamation,” Tech said. “This allegation affects the reputation of Samdech Techo [Hun Sen].”

Sovantha – who shot to fame as a CNRP activist before turning into a vocal opposition critic – has also rejected the claim, saying her Facebook was hacked and the messages fabricated.

The premier’s case, which demands $1 million in compensation, is his second active court case against Rainsy, after accusing the CNRP president of “incitement” for linking him to the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.

Tech said Hun Sen would donate the money to a charity to build houses for disabled people if Rainsy paid up.

Reached by phone in France, Rainsy, who fled abroad in 2015 to avoid arrest in a separate case and now faces a raft of lawsuits
brought by government officials, yesterday said he welcomed the premier’s complaint.

“The more he sues, the better, because it gives occasion for public opinion to form around the case, which will be discussed widely,” Rainsy said, saying he believed the messages had truth at their core.

“I do not have to worry, because I speak the truth.”

Long before the emergence of the leaked messages, critics had accused Sovantha of working for the benefit of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party by running a months-long campaign attacking CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha over an alleged affair.

The premier’s second son, Hun Manith, was also accused of colluding with the young social media celebrity based on a separate set of leaked messages.

Sovantha said those chats, which included audio recordings, were also fabricated, while Manith, a two-star general, has not responded to the claims.

Officials at the Ministry of Defence, where he is head of intelligence, never denied the authenticity of the recordings but dismissed them as a personal matter.

Political analyst Meas Ny yesterday said the whole scandal reflected poorly, but accurately, on Cambodian politics.

“I am not surprised because, as we have witnessed for 30 years, this is the character of our politicians,” Ny said.

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