Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy hit with latest defamation conviction, fined $1M



Rainsy hit with latest defamation conviction, fined $1M

Social media star Thy Sovantha, seen speaking outside the Phnom Penh court earlier this year, won a defamation case against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday.
Social media star Thy Sovantha, seen speaking outside the Phnom Penh court earlier this year, won a defamation case against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday. Hong Menea

Rainsy hit with latest defamation conviction, fined $1M

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy was found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay 4 billion riel (about $1 million) to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday for alleging that the premier bribed pro-government activist Thy Sovantha to attack the opposition.

The accusation stemmed from messages leaked from Sovantha’s Facebook account between her and Hun Sen in November. The messages dealt with undermining the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, with the prime minister calling Sovantha “grandchild” and offering her $1 million.

Sovantha claimed her page was hacked and the messages fabricated.

During Friday’s hearing, the court played a 26-minute video from January of Rainsy speaking to Cambodian supporters in France.

“Hun Sen bribes Thy Sovantha $1 million . . . He bribed her to do bad things, to attack and cause trouble to the CNRP, to hold protests,” Rainsy said in the clip.

Hun Sen was represented by Ky Tech, the same lawyer who represented the government last month in its case seeking the dissolution of the CNRP.

“What Sam Rainsy said was not true and it affects the reputation of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia,” Tech said.

Rainsy, who lives in self-exile in France to avoid a slew of similar convictions widely seen as politically motivated, was found guilty in absentia. His lawyer, Sam Sokong, challenged the validity of the verdict, in part because Sovantha was not present in the courtroom to testify.

“The prime minister is a public figure, and in a democratic society he should not mind criticism . . . The court should have the written statement of Thy Sovantha denying that, or summons her to testify here,” he said.

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy gives an interview on French TV5 Monde television network earlier this month in France. Photo supplied
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy gives an interview on French TV5 Monde television network earlier this month in France. Photo supplied

Yoeurng Sotheara, legal expert at election watchdog Comfrel, said the latest conviction was “the same as the cases before” and “politically motivated”.

“In a democracy with freedom expression . . . the right to express criticism to public figures is granted in the Constitution,” Sotheara said.

“Not everything is defamation,” he added.

Rainsy said in an email on Friday that he is “confident” the more than 400 leaked messages are legitimate, and could be proven so.

“If someone had wanted to invent something to discredit the concerned two persons, they would not have needed to fabricate so many fake messages,” Rainsy said via email on Friday.

“Moreover, nobody apart from the two would have known so many details about their relationship . . . They have never been convincingly denied by Hun Sen.”

Mu Sochua, the former opposition deputy president who fled the country in October, said the conviction against Rainsy would be another black eye on the justice system.

“These series of political cases will continue to make Cambodia a country known for its mockery of justice,” she said by email. “Mr. Hun Sen has nothing to prove but his zero tolerance of true justice.”

Updated: Monday 1 January 2017, 6:52am

A previous version of this article misattributed a case to lawyer Ky Tech. It has now been updated. We apologise for the error.

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there