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Mu Sochua grilled in court

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SRP lawmaker questioned for four hours by court prosecutor in Hun Sen's defamation suit.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Mu Sochua speaks to reporters outside of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday.

OPPOSITION Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua answered questions Wednesday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court regarding  a defamation lawsuit filed against her by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The lawsuit stems from a complaint lodged by Mu Sochua over an April 4 speech given by the prime minister in which, she claims, he made derogatory comments about her. Mu Sochua's own complaint prompted a countersuit from Hun Sen, who denied that the comments in question referred to her.  

Emerging from the court after four hours of questioning, the Kampot lawmaker told reporters that Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun had focused on the question of why she had organised a press conference announcing her intention to sue Hun Sen before actually filing her complaint.

She said she told the deputy prosecutor that she did so because she wanted to outline her case clearly to the media, adding that holding press conferences is not illegal.  

"As I am a victim, I turned to Cambodian law to defend myself," she told reporters.  

In the April speech in Kampot, Hun Sen referred to an unnamed lawmaker as a cheung klang, or "strong leg", a term viewed by some as particularly offensive to women. Mu Sochua has said repeatedly that the speech clearly referred to her, noting that Hun Sen described the same lawmaker as a "strong female MP from the opposition party in Kampot" who lost a button on her shirt while running around embracing people.

During last year's election campaign, Mu Sochua was involved in an altercation in which she said an army general tore a buttom from her blouse and exposed her bra.

"Although Samdech Hun Sen did not refer to me by name, people who were at the speech on April 4 told me by phone to listen to it because he had clearly referred to me," she said.

Ky Tech, the prime minister's lawyer, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun declined to comment Wednesday afternoon, saying that he was busy with teaching obligations.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment beyond saying that he was not interested in Mu Sochua's comments and that "all people must be under the law".

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said in a statement Monday that the case was demonstrative of "an inclination to shut down the rights and freedoms" of the opposition party.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, expressed concern that no action seemed to have been taken with regard to Mu Sochua's original complaint, adding that the court must be willing to summon Hun Sen as well.

  Prime minister hun sen has always said he is brave, so he should agree to appear in court.

"The court must summon them together," Sok Sam Oeun said.
Mu Sochua urged Hun Sen to appear before the court if summoned, saying that SRP President Sam Rainsy had always appeared when called in for questioning.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen has always said he is brave, so he should agree to appear in court," she said. "I still hope that the court will give us justice."

Legal misconduct claims

The case has also resulted in a complaint filed by Ky Tech against Kong Sam Onn, Mu Sochua's lawyer, on charges of violating professional codes of ethics by speaking publicly about the Mu Sochua case.

Kong Sam Onn appeared before a Bar Association inspection team Monday, but the meeting was suspended after he requested that the bar replace one of the inspection panel members - lawyer Hem Voun - who works at the law firm of Ky Tech. The meeting with the inspection team has now been suspended twice and has not been rescheduled.

Bar Association President Chiv Songkak said after the second cancellation that he supported Kong Sam Onn's request, but that he could not say who would replace Hem Voun on the inspection team.

Hem Voun also said he understood the request and "did not oppose" it.

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