THE outspoken provincial director of a teachers union has been convicted of defamation after accusing a Prey Veng province school principal of selling off district-owned land.
Chin Rithy, 41, the provincial director of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) in Prey Veng, was ordered to pay the maximum 10 million riels (US$2,396) fine but will not face prison time, said provincial court director Chea Nol.
Chin Rithy, a teacher at Neak Loeung secondary school in Peamro district, had accused the school’s principal, Yoeun Sovuthy, of selling off a 6-by-21-metre plot of land belonging to the school.
Half of the fine will go to the state, and the other half will go to the principal because Chin Rithy “did damage to the principal’s reputation and dignity”, Chea Nol said.
Chin Rithy could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but his lawyer criticised the verdict. “It is very unjust for my client to be found guilty of the defamation charge,” said lawyer Chin Lida, who works with rights group Licadho.
“In reality, he only raised his concerns on behalf of the school’s interests. He didn’t do it to damage [Yoeun Sovuthy’s] reputation.”
The principal, however, said the decision was well-founded.
“It is fair and just,” Yoeun Sovuthy said, adding that the claims “were absolutely not true, accusing me of selling school land. The allegations really damaged my reputation and shamed me”.
Chin Lida said he would need to consult with his client before deciding on an appeal.
The president of CITA, urged Chin Rithy to appeal.
“We can’t accept the court’s conviction,” said Rong Chhun. “It is an injustice and biased.”