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SRP to pay in Sochua case: party official

THE Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) is set to pay 16.5 million riels (around US$3,928) in fines and compensation on behalf of SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, a party official said Sunday, though the parliamentarian said she had not authorised the payment.

The fine and fee were levied after Mu Sochua was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen in August last year, a ruling that was upheld by the Appeal Court in October and the Supreme Court earlier this month.

The lawmaker has consistently stated she would rather face jail than pay the fine, and SRP officials have said the party would support her decision.

But acting SRP spokesman Kim Souphirith said that at a meeting on Thursday, party officials decided to pay the money in order to stabilise the party. “We don’t want to have an individual political dispute affecting the political party,” Kim Souphirith said.

“Sometimes we must think about the political situation in our country as well.”

The defamation case arose in April last year, after Mu Sochua filed her own lawsuit against Hun Sen, saying he defamed her during a speech in Kampot province.

When contacted on Sunday, Mu Sochua said she knew nothing of the party’s plans and repeated her earlier stance.

“I am standing on my position, which I have maintained all along: I will not pay for the fine, and SRP will not pay on my behalf,” she said by email.
“The fine can be paid only with my authorisation. I never discussed with SRP about authorising payment of the fine.”

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said Sunday that any attempt by the party to pay the fine would be an attempt to allow Mu Sochua to save face while avoiding jail.

“This is a political pretext to deceive the public’s eyes,” he said. “If Mu Sochua keeps her willingness to agree to jail, she should absolutely oppose [the party] and not let them pay.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

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