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SRP lawmaker to sue Hun Sen

Mu Sochua says she will take the PM to court for defamatory remark.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua said she plans to sue Prime Minister Hun Sen in a municipal court after he called her cheung klang, or "strong leg", in a speech in Kampot on April 4, she announced Thursday at a press conference in Phnom Penh.

Mu Sochua said that, although she respects Hun Sen as the head of government, she wants him to be held responsible for his insults and is asking for a symbolic 500 riels ($0.12) in damages, which she plans to keep in her cupboard drawer.

SRP lawyer Kong Sam Onn said that Hun Sen was not above the law and could be sued for defamation under a 2006 amendment of the 1992 Untac Law. The original legislation says, "Any bad faith allegation ... which harms the honour or reputation of an individual is a defamation."

Kong Sam Onn added that Hun Sen would be unable to deny his words because they were recorded and said publicly.

"I respect Samdech Hun Sen," Mu Sochua said. "I still remember Samdech's words from when I was minister of women's affairs. Samdech always glorified women and said they should be in political affairs."

Nontheless, she says she wants to maintain her honour as a Khmer woman.

 "Samdech's statement, which said that I am a ‘strong leg' female, could be translated many different ways," Mu Sochua said. "Samdech stated in public that I was a skilled troublemaker and that I ran to embrace a man and lost a button on my shirt on purpose," she said. "This is defamation on me as Khmer woman."

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but Hun Sen's top adviser and president of the Cambodian Human Right Committee, Om Yentieng,

told the Post that he welcomed Mu Sochua's court case but that the court's decision would be final.

"We welcome that she files to the court and follows the law. But whatever the court decides ... we would like her to follow," Om Yentieng said.

Run Saray, the executive director of Legal Aid of Cambodia, said the verdict should be based on the accuracy of Hun Sen's statement.

"I think that if [Hun Sen's] accusation is really true, then the case is not sustainable. But if it's false, then it's sustainable," he said, adding that if the courts remain impartial then Mu Sochua's case has a chance.

"This depends on the courts. If they are impartial, maybe it will succeed. But if they are not independent, [the case] may fail."

International support

Mu Sochua has received support from a number of international figures following the remarks by Hun Sen.

Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, wrote a letter on her behalf saying she and her organisation V-Day were proud supporters of Mu Sochua and worried that she was targeted "because she is an outspoken woman who bravely advocates for her people".

Ensler demanded that Mu Sochua be allowed to "serve safely and freely".

The board of directors of the Global Fund for Women, the Wellesley Centre for Women and the Vital Voices Global Partnership also wrote strong letters in support of the SRP lawmaker.

The Global Fund for Women letter, sent to Hun Sen, urged him to make a full apology for his statements and promised to bring Mu Sochua's abusive and defamatory treatment  to the attention of the international community.

 ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

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