THE director of child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) on Wednesday rejected a proposed out-of-court settlement in his defamation case against a defence lawyer who often represents paedophiles, as the Phnom Penh Municipal Court took its first step towards bringing the case to trial.
Samleang Seila filed a defamation complaint against lawyer Dun Vibol on May 12, after the latter told the Post that APLE engages in entrapment “in most child sex cases related to foreigners”.
“[Foreigners] have been trapped by local NGO Action Pour Les Enfants with local police to nab foreigners, without preventing the crime from happening. They let the crime occur, and then arrest the foreigners,” Dun Vibol said in an article published on May 10.
Dun Vibol’s comments came in response to similar claims made by Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun, who said during a conference on May 7 that “NGO activists and police make traps with the mother of a young girl and a sex buyer” in order to arrest
On Wednesday, Samleang Seila attended a preliminary questioning session at the Municipal Court, where he said he presented evidence in support of his complaint.
The complaint accuses Dun Vibol of lacking evidence to support his accusations, and says his comments “damaged the reputation, dignity and determination of APLE staff.”
“We confirmed information about our complaint against Dun Vibol,” Samleang Seila said after the questioning session. “Our evidence was the original article, but they asked us for a translation of the article.”
He also said the court clerk who conducted the session, Thoang Sithan, had asked him whether it would be possible to settle the case against Dun Vibol outside of court, but that he had rejected the proposal outright.
“He did not give details of what the compromise was, because when he asked if a compromise was possible, we said no,” he said. “We did not ask for any details. Our complaint will go ahead.”
Thoang Sithan, who works on behalf of prosecutor Yet Chakriya, confirmed that he had suggested reaching a settlement, but declined to elaborate.
He said an investigation into Samleang Seila’s complaint was “ongoing”, and that no decision had been reached on whether to charge Dun Vibol.
APLE is seeking 20 million riels (around US$4,762) in compensation, and is also asking the court to levy a fine of 10 million riels against Dun Vibol, according to the complaint.
Yet Chakriya declined to comment on the case Wednesday.
Dun Vibol said he was aware of the complaint against him, but that he had not yet been summoned to the court to present his case.
“Normally, the court summons the complainant to confirm information about their complaint,” he said. “I now have to wait until the court summons me to present my case.”
He reiterated previous claims that he had enough evidence to prove his entrapment allegations against APLE, which he repeated in court on numerous occasions prior to the May 10 article.
“I think I have enough evidence to have the complaint dropped,” he said.
Samleang Seila said Wednesday that he was still waiting to hear from the Bar Association concerning a complaint filed against Dun Vibol in June of last year.
The complaint accuses the defence lawyer of submitting false documents and paying bribes while defending one of his clients, Frenchman Jacques Bernard Rene Collinet, who was convicted last September of purchasing child prostitution and given a three-year prison sentence, two years of which were suspended.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court found that the female victim in the case was 16 years old when the incident occurred.
The complaint from APLE accuses Dun Vibol of forging documents to make the case that she was actually 19 at the time, and of paying an official a bribe of $50 to certify the documents.
Bar Association president Chiv Songhak said Wednesday that the complaint is still being investigated.
Dun Vibol has denied any wrongdoing.