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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SRP lawyer faces Bar inspection

SRP lawyer faces Bar inspection


PM's defamation complaint could lead to disbarment.

Photo by: Sovann Philong

Mu Sochua at the press conference at which she announced plans to sue Hun Sen. 

THE lawyer representing opposition MP Mu Sochua in her defamation case against Prime Minister Hun Sen could be banned from practising law if the Cambodian Bar Association rules that his comments at a recent press conference were defamatory to Hun Sen.

Hun Sen's lawyer, Ky Tech, told the Post that Kong Sam Onn would be sued as well if the Bar Association found he was at fault.

"I filed a complaint with the Bar Association on Monday," Ky Tech said. "If the Bar's disciplinary council finds he was at fault, he will be stripped of his licence to practise, and Mu Sochua will need to find another lawyer to take on her case."

Ky Tech said Kong Sam Onn was at fault because of statements he made when outlining his client's case at an April 23 press conference called by Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, to announce she would sue Hun Sen for defamation.

Mu Sochua's case stems from what she said are derogatory comments about an unnamed woman that were made by Hun Sen and broadcast nationally. Mu Sochua said those comments clearly referred to her.

The lawsuit resulted in a countersuit by Hun Sen, who claimed that Mu Sochua had defamed him by saying the comments he made referred to her.

Kong Sam Onn rejected the allegation that he had defamed Hun Sen. He told the Post that he had made no errors that would justify his expulsion from the Bar. His comments at the press conference simply outlined his client's case and were not defamatory, he said.

 "If I have made a mistake, then it would be the first mistake and would not warrant ousting me from the Bar because I am not a dishonest man," he said. "I will be very sorry if I am ousted from my profession, but I am not strong enough to face them down."

Kong Sam Onn said all of his clients - Mu Sochua included - would need to find new lawyers if he were disbarred.

"Then I will become a simple person without a job, and I will have to look for another job to which I can devote my life," he said.

Mu Sochua told the Post on Tuesday that she would be very sorry to see her lawyer disbarred. She said the threats to her lawyer had been a heavy burden and meant he would likely be unable to defend her in court.

"So I would like to appeal to the Bar Association to consider this issue properly and in terms of the law, and I would like to call on all lawyers who have a conscience to seek justice under the law," she said.

"I will find another lawyer, but it is difficult for me to enjoy equal rights under the law."

The president of the Bar Association, Chiv Songhak, told the Post Tuesday that his organisation had received Ky Tech's complaint and said the issue was under inspection.

"We have already sent the complaint to the inspectorate, and they are working on the case," he said.

 "The next step will be its consideration by the disciplinary council."

Potential punishment

Chiv Songhak said Kong Sam Onn could face three types of punishment: receiving a warning, having his licence suspended or being disbarred as a legal professional.

"But I can't say whether [Kong Sam Onn] has made a mistake or not," Chiv Songhak said, adding that it was for the disciplinary council to decide the case.

Heang Rithy, director of the Cambodian National Research Organisation, who also holds a doctorate in law, said Kong Sam Onn could be sued for alledgedly defamatory comments made at the press conference - if he, in fact, made any.

He said that defamation was only a minor offence under Bar Association rules, although the rules left it unclear whether defamation could lead to a member being expelled.



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