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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KCF head laments government snub

KCF head laments government snub

Moeung Sonn says he has received no response to letters apologising for Angkor Wat lighting remarks.

KHMER Civilisation Foundation head Moeung Sonn says he has received no response from letters of apology he sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni last month, seeking to overturn a disinformation conviction relating to criticisms of a new lighting scheme at Angkor Wat.

On July 14, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Moeung Sonn of disinformation in absentia, sentencing him to two years in prison and ordering him to pay 15 million riels (US$3,627) in fines and compensation.

"Until now, I have not received any letters of response from any government officials, which makes me deeply concerned," Moeung Sonn said in a statement issued from France on Sunday.

Shortly after being charged in late June, Moeung Sonn fled to France. In an interview by phone then, he said, ""If I had not left Cambodia shortly after [being charged], I would have been arrested and detained with a court warrant because the government was terribly angry with me."

Moeung Sonn sent letters to Hun Sen and King Sihamoni on July 17, apologising for comments made in late May, when he suggested that the heat from a new lighting scheme at Angkor Wat could damage the 11th-century temple.

"Please Samdech, consider providing justice and freeing me from the charges in order to pave the way for me to return to my beloved homeland safely," Moeung Sonn wrote in his letter to Hun Sen.


Moeung Sonn's apologies came after former Sam Rainsy Party lawyer Kong Sam Onn and Dam Sith, publisher of the opposition-aligned Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper, both wrote personal apologies to the prime minister after being sued for defamation by government officials.
Both saw the charges against them dropped.
However, legal experts told the Post last month that since he has been convicted on disinformation charges already, only a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni would be able to clear him of the charges.

In his statement on Sunday, Moeung Sonn reiterated that his comments were only "to express my concerns as a Cambodian citizen", and that his only aim was to protect the country's cultural heritage.

"I had no intention of inciting confusions about government policy," he said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Tuesday he did not wish to comment, but Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that for the prime minister to intervene and lift Moeung Sonn's charges would go against the court's ruling and violate its jurisdiction.

"Moeung Sonn already played a game with the government, so if Prime Minister Hun Sen makes the decision to excuse him he would be trapped" he said.



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