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Waitress, rights worker see suits nixed

Defamation and incitement suits filed, respectively, against a woman suing for sexual harassment and the rights worker who helped her were dropped by the Banteay Meanchey provincial court yesterday.

A bizarre legal tangle emerged in November after waitress Hi Theavy accused Cambodian Mine Action Centre official Oum Socheath and his friend of groping her and using vulgar sexual innuendo in a complaint filed to provincial court.

Oum Socheath counter-sued Hi Theavy for defaming him in radio interviews and filed a complaint against Soum Chankea, the Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator of rights group Adhoc, alleging he used threats to coerce the young waitress into taking legal action.

Soum Chankea said yesterday he had received letters from the provincial court signed on May 8 by deputy prosecutor Yin Sokuntheary that rejected the charges.

“The decision is right because it showed that the court is not used to threaten human rights activist,” he said. “We made a gift and gave legal consultation – that is based on the association’s policy, not related to political intentions or threats,” he said.

Hi Theavy could not be reached for comment.

Oum Socheat has the right to appeal for the complaints to be reopened, which yesterday he said he would likely do.

“If the dropping [of the complaint] is true, I will consider filing another complaint against the decision to drop them. It is unjust for me,” he said, a denied he was guilty of sexual harassment.

Rights workers decried the suits at the time they were filed, saying that such complaints were widely abused and used to cow rights workers into silence.

“We, as legal people and NGO workers in Cambodia, see this [use of incitement charges against rights workers] as an incorrect practice by authorities,” Community Legal Education Center program manger Huon Chundy told the Post at the time.

The case gained public attention after a letter revealed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s younger brother, Hun San, had ask the prosecutor to drop investigations into Oum Socheat.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at seangly.phak@phnompenhpost.com

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