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Embattled attorney quits SRP

Hun Sen rescinds complaints after receiving letter of apology.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that he had withdrawn his legal complaints against Kong Sam Onn, a lawyer representing Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann, after the attorney resigned his post and defected to the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Kong Sam Onn, who filed a defamation lawsuit against the premier on behalf of Mu Sochua in April, was facing a Bar Association inspection relating to charges that he breached the association's code of professional ethics. He was also facing a related defamation case filed by Hun Sen.

"I have ordered my lawyer to drop my complaints against Kong Sam Onn. He wrote to apologise to me and offered to join the CPP," Hun Sen said during a forum on social safety nets, during which he also warned foreign commentators not to act as "spokesmen" for the opposition on the issue.

"I don't want anything except honour," he added.

Kong Sam Onn could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but SRP parliamentarians refused to condemn his action, saying it was prompted by intense political pressure.

"I do not condemn Kong Sam Onn. He defended me bravely," Mu Sochua said, adding that he emailed her to apologise for his resignation, saying that he had no choice.

"I know that in his heart he is suffering so much," she added.

Fellow SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang agreed, saying Kom Song Onn had endured excessive political pressure by representing opposition party members against ruling party officials.

"Kong Sam Onn told the party last week that he had defected from his legal position in the SRP. He has difficulties because the pressure gives him no other option," he said, adding that the defection was a dire indication of the state of Cambodia's democratic system.

"We are not disappointed with his defection because we understand the situation. We know that our country has no full democracy. A powerful group has pressured a weak group."

But Hun Sen's lawyer Ky Tech dismissed the suggestion that the government had put pressure on Kong Sam Onn to resign, saying that he wrote to the prime minister after he realised the mistake he had made.

"It is an individual's responsibility that when he makes a mistake he must say sorry," he said.

Ky Tech declined to comment on the lawyer's defection to the CPP.

"[There was] no pressure on Kong Sam Onn. Samdech Hun Sen, the court and I, none of us have met him.... Samdech was surprised when he read the letter of apology."

Ky Tech said he withdrew the bar complaint at 2pm Tuesday and would withdraw a related defamation case from Phnom Penh Muncipal Court today.

Rules are rules
Chiv Songhak, president of the Bar Association, said Tuesday that the bar did not know whether Kong Sam Onn had defected to the CPP or not.

But he emphasised that the Bar Association was independent of any political party and said it would still proceed with its investigation against Kong Sam Onn for his conduct while representing Mu Sochua.

"If he defects to any party that is up to him," Chiv Songhak said.

"His case at the bar will still proceed because he is a bar member who is bound by the rules of the bar."

He said, however, that Kong Sam Onn did not appear before the Bar Council as scheduled Tuesday, and that he had requested a postponement while he takes his son to Singapore for medical treatment.

Mu Sochua said the nature of the lawsuits filed by Ky Tech show that the bar is a tool of the ruling party. She said the SRP might struggle to find a new lawyer following the bar investigation and Kong Sam Onn's resignation.

"I know that from now to the future, the opposition parties will be lost forever in the courts," she said.

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