FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday lauded a French appeal court’s decision to uphold a defamation conviction against Sam Rainsy, saying the opposition leader called him a “criminal”.
On May 20, the appeal court affirmed last year’s ruling in the case, which stems from passages included in Sam Rainsy’s 2008 autobiography – titled Rooted in Stone – alleging that Hor Namhong headed the notorious Khmer Rouge-era Boeung Trabek “re-education camp”. The camp held diplomats and government officials from the Lon Nol and Norodom Sihanouk regimes, some of whom were sent to Tuol Sleng prison.
“The accusation seriously damaged my reputation,” Hor Namhong said on Tuesday. “This issue is not about freedom of expression. He has accused me of being a criminal.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff distributed to reporters excerpts of the French appeal court’s decision, which stated that Sam Rainsy would need to pay €2,000 (US$2,452) in compensation, though Hor Namhong said he was not interested in the payment.
“I did not want money,” he said. “I asked only for €1 in compensation. I think just €1 would be enough for my honour.
Hor Namhong filed a similar complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, also in 2008, but so far no action has been taken on the case.
Sam Rainsy is in self-imposed exile after receiving in January a two-year jail term from the Svay Rieng provincial court for his role in uprooting markers in October 2009 along the Vietnamese border.
Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, declined to comment on the defamation case involving Hor Namhong, saying it was a personal matter.