A rights worker was questioned at court yesterday for allegedly providing coercive legal consultation to a woman filing a sexual harassment complaint, in what legal experts have said is an abuse of the justice system.
Defence lawyer Long Lun said Cambodian Mine Action Centre official Oum Socheath had filed the complaint against his client Soum Chankea, rights group Adhoc’s Banteay Meanchey coordinator, for allegedly inciting waitress Hi Theavy to sue him.
He said Soum Chankea had originally been summonsed for defamation but discovered at court he had actually been sued for allegedly using threats to force Hi Theavy into filing a complaint against Oum Socheath.
“The prosecutor should not charge Soum Chankea, because what he did was to give legal consultation to her [Hi Theavy] based on Adhoc’s policy,” he said, adding the complaint had no legal basis.
Oum Socheath had filed the complaint in November after Soum Chankea assisted Hi Theavy in filing a sexual harassment suit against the CMAC official and his friend Pong Piseth.
The complaint also included an accusation of defamation levelled at Hi Theavy, said Long Lun, adding she would undergo questioning at a later date.
Soum Chankea said Hi Theavy had been accused of defaming the CMAC official in interviews given to Radio Free Asia and an Australian radio channel.
Previously, it was revealed that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s younger brother, Hun San, had signed a letter asking the prosecutor to drop investigations into Oum Socheath.
Community Legal Education Center program manger Huon Chundy said incitement complaints were widely abused against rights activists and workers.
“We, as legal people and NGO workers in Cambodia, see this [use of incitement charges against rights workers] as an incorrect practice by authorities,” he said.
“They [rights workers] just educate the people about the law – how to take legal action in accordance with procedures, law. The decision of filing complaints are the complainants’ themselves.”