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Meet me in court, PM: activist

Meet me in court, PM: activist


Sam Rainsy Party Youth Wing leader Soung Sophorn speaks with journalists last month on the second anniversary of the Koh Pich stampede disaster. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) Youth Wing leader Soung Sophorn has thrown down the gauntlet to Prime Minister Hun Sen, inviting him to attend the hearing into the premeditated murder case he has brought against the premier.

Senior SRP officials have distanced the party from his “personal” cause, but maintained support for him in his fight for justice over the Koh Pich bridge stampede, which Sophorn has now vowed to take to the International Court of Justice.

Sophorn yesterday said he had plenty of evidence to prove the premier was guilty of premeditated murder for failing to pre-empt the Koh Pich tragedy on the final day of the Water Festival in 2010.

But he said he was keeping the most damning evidence close to his chest until Friday, the day of the hearing.

“I have no phobia of Hun Sen’s threatening because I am well prepared ahead of the submission of my complaint,” he said.

“In December I will go to launch the complaint at the International [Criminal] Court in the Netherlands.”

Hun Sen has threatened to sue Sophorn for defamation if found not guilty, and further alleged his actions are politically motivated by the SRP.

It hasn’t frightened Sophorn, who yesterday extended the list of government officials he intended to take to the ICC to include Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, for allegedly allowing Vietnamese immigrants to illegally enter the country.

Sophorn also pledged to file a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against environment minister Mok Mareth for illegal logging and said he plans to sue Minister of the Palace Kong Sam Ol, who chaired the investigation into the stampede, Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema and the city’s police chief, Touch Naruth.  

SRP party whip Son Chhay stressed at a press conference on Tuesday that Sophorn’s battle against the premier did not represent the party’s policy.

Yesterday he said that, while he supported the “brave young man” for raising awareness on an important issue, he felt Sophorn had gone too far in threatening to take ministers such as Mok Mareth
and Sar Kheng to the ICC.

“With the others, I am not in a position to support him, because I think he overdoes it,” he said.

Political analyst Sok Touch said Saphorn’s complaint was little more than a political stunt ahead of next year’s national election.

“Only the court is eligible to file a complaint of premeditated murder, so, if he sues like this, it mirrors highly political behaviour,” he said.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the charge was also inappropriate, because for premeditated murder, there had to be intent to kill in the first place.

“It is not so, because [the stampede] is the first time this happened in Cambodia and we have no law relating to safety of location,” he said, adding that civil actions could feasibly be filed for compensation.

After the tragedy, where 353 died and 393 were injured, a government investigation found no individuals at fault but concluded there had been “joint responsibility”.

The victims’ families were each given $1,230 compensation by the government. 

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]
With assistance from David Boyle


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