Embattled opposition party leader Kem Sokha may soon be facing yet another lawsuit after Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened as much yesterday, saying he would take the party to court should they continue to maintain that the controversy surrounding Sokha’s alleged mistress is a political machination.
The premier issued the strongly worded ultimatum regarding the so-called mistress and her mother – who claims to have been assaulted by Sokha’s bodyguards – during a speech made in front of thousands of onlookers at an inauguration ceremony for a new school in Kandal province.
“Please stop saying that the [Cambodian] People’s Party is the organiser [behind these women]. If you keep saying this, we have the right to sue,” Hun Sen said. “We don’t need to sue after the election, [we can] sue before the election.”
“Any individual in that party who says that the People’s Party is the organiser, we will sue them in court so they’ll have even more lawsuits,” he added, noting that Sokha is already embroiled in lawsuits with not only Keo Sophannary, the alleged mistress, but also S-21 survivor Chum Mey, who accused Sokha of defamation in the wake of an alleged S-21 denial.
The threat marks the second time in less than a week that Hun Sen has warned off the opposition. Last Thursday, after devoting an entire speech to the sordid details of the alleged affair as well as scandals of other unnamed opposition leaders, Hun Sen told them he would sue if they claimed it was a CPP staging.
Only days later, the ruling party government posted a salacious interview on the website of the Council of Minister’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, in which Sophannary details the extent of the alleged affair to an interviewer from a government-affiliated TV station.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday said he was not interested in Hun Sen’s threat, calling it unimportant when compared to the issues facing Cambodia.
“Whatever he wants to do, it is his right,” Yim Sovann said. “The national issues are very important, and the election is also important. So whoever makes unclean problems before the election must be responsible for that.”
Sovann went on to call on the premier not to use the courts to stifle freedom of expression, and urged him to join in a debate on the matter, but declined to comment on whether he still maintained that the situation with Sophannary had, in fact, been concocted by the CPP.
When contacted yesterday, Sophannary confirmed that she had already filed a complaint to the Prey Veng Provincial Court.
In Prey Veng town, where Sophannary made her first appearance – and where Sokha’s bodyguards allegedly beat her mother – CNRP president Yan Yoeun said yesterday that the thousands of people who had been present when the altercation was purported to have taken place were prepared to testify on Sokha’s behalf.
“There was no one who dared to hit either of the women; that woman just insulted Mr Kem Sokha,” he said.
“I have a video clip as a witness. All the people in Prey Veng town agree to be witnesses in this issue.”
Prey Veng town villagers Sun Phally, 42, and Yen Mom, 39, said they had visited the forum to listen to Sokha’s speech, and hadn’t seen anyone attack the women.
“This is a twist. I speak after seeing with my own eyes that there was no one beating her. If there is anyone filing complaint, I guarantee I would be a witness. I guarantee that 200 women in my village will agree to be witnesses,” Phally said.
“I dare to be a witness because I was there too,” said Mom.
“It is nothing to be afraid of. The group I was with told that older woman to get out and let [Kem Sokha] finish his meeting, and my group also called a motodop to take her away.”