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Court tosses suit targeting premier

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Sam Rainsy Party youth wing leader Soung Sophorn speaks to reporters outside the municipal court earlier this month. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has dropped the lawsuit filed by a Sam Rainsy Party activist holding Prime Minister Hun Sen accountable for his alleged role in the 2010 Koh Pich stampede, which resulted in more than 350 deaths.

Deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth said yesterday the court had decided not to pursue the lawsuit filed by SRP Youth Movement leader Suong Sophorn — which accused Hun Sen of bearing responsibility for the deaths of 353 Water Festival-goers killed in a stampede on the bridge to Koh Pich, or Diamond Island — but declined to comment on the reasons for the decision.  

“I have already dropped his case, and decided to not take action on it,” Chanpiseth said.  “I have also sent a letter to the plaintiff already.”

A highly criticised government investigation carried out after the stampede determined it had been an accident, and that no one was at fault.

Sophorn expressed disapproval at the lack of clarification. “I was very disappointed and very regretful at the court’s decision, because there was no specific reason to drop my complaint like this,” he said.

“I think the reason the court decided to drop my complaint and not take action on it is that the court was afraid of Prime Minister Hun Sen.  This decision has clearly shown that Prime Minister Hun Sen has been influencing the court system.”

Sophorn said he would appeal against the decision, and would take his complaints abroad.

“To find justice for all the victims, I am planning to take it to the Court of Appeal in the next two or three weeks.

“I am also planning to take it to the International Court of Justice within the next   four weeks.”

Sok Sam Oeun, executive  director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that under the penal code, the court’s decision was reasonable.

According to the Cambodian civil code, Oeun said, the municipal governor and the owner of Diamond Island would be considered liable, not the prime minister.

Hun Sen had threatened to counter-sue Sophorn if found not guilty, but his cabinet chief, Ho Sethy, could not be reached for comment.



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