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Philippine female legislators denounce Hun Sen over slur

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Mu Sochua speaks to the press after being found guilty of defamation earlier this month.

Group calls the premier's defamation suit against Mu Sochua an act of chauvinism designed to stifle freedom of expression.

WE DENOUNCE THESE TACTICS OF INTIMIDATION, PERSECUTION AND REPRESSION....

A women's party in the Philippines has joined the international call for the Cambodian government to halt its campaign of intimidation against opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen of sexism.

Mu Sochua, an SRP parliamentarian, was convicted on August 4 of defaming Hun Sen and ordered to pay 8.5 million riels (US$2,028) in fines and 8 million riels ($1,909) in compensation. The charges stemmed from an April speech by Hun Sen in which he referred to an unnamed woman as a "cheung klang". The term means "strong legs" and is considered derogatory when used to describe women.

The speech prompted Mu Sochua to file a defamation suit, but Hun Sen denied that he had been referring to her and countersued her for defamation, pointing to an April 23 press conference in which she made her suit public. Mu Sochua's case was thrown out, whereas the premier was allowed to proceed with his.

The verdict, which Mu Sochua described as a "political game" that has cast Cambodia's judicial system "into darkness", met with widespread international condemnation.

Last week, the Gabriela Women's Party (GWP), which describes itself as the only all-female party in the Philippine House of Representatives, accused the prime minister of being a chauvinist.

"We strongly protest the discriminatory slur of the statements of the prime minister as anti-women and chauvinist," the statement reads. "Likewise, we deplore the alleged acts of repression as forms of attacks against the right to free expression, democracy and equality."

"We denounce these tactics of intimidation, persecution and repression, using the legal system against the administration's critics and members of the opposition party. We urge the Cambodian government to respect the rights of MP Mu Sochua as a woman leader and parliamentarian who is working for democracy, equality and justice."

The government was dismissive of the criticisms on Sunday. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan accused the party of knowing nothing about Cambodian politics.

"They have no right to make statements such as this because they don't know the facts of the situation in Cambodia," he said.

"A party in the Philippines probably knows the least about Mu Sochua's case."

A hearing on the dismissal of Mu Sochua's lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen was postponed earlier this month because of her absence from court.

The lawmaker was summoned to appear in court on August 17 by Prosecutor General Ouk Savuth after she contested a Municipal Court decision in July rejecting her lawsuit against Hun Sen.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said she requested the hearing be delayed because she was due to visit the United States for medical treatment.

The parliamentarian, who represents Kampot province, is scheduled to return from the US on September 20.

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