Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport.
In his letter, the minister noted that a number of media outlets, including the UK-based Guardian and the US-based Washington Post newspapers, have recently published "misleading" articles on the issue citing the Pandora Papers released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
“We would like to ascertain that Samdech Aka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a national hero who has led the struggle movement to end the more than two decades of war and brought complete peace, territorial unity, happiness and prosperity to Cambodian people and the Kingdom of Cambodia," Koeut Rith said, using Hun Sen's royal title.
“He [Hun Sen] only has Khmer citizenship and has publicly and frequently announced to Cambodian people his unwavering political stance of 'staying with Cambodian people, rain or shine, and will never run away from Cambodian people and the Kingdom of Cambodia, no matter how hard the circumstance is,'” he said.
He said the articles seriously damaged the honour and integrity of the prime minister and the Cambodian people as a whole.
“The Ministry of Justice of the Kingdom of Cambodia hereby requests your kind cooperation in investigating ... in order to show the truth to the general public and Cambodian people as well as to preserve the honour and integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the prime minister,” he said.
Earlier on October 6, the Lawyers of the Royal Government of Cambodia also rejected the news reports, which they dismissed as untrue, baseless and misleading.
Prime Minister Hun Sen "has only one Khmer nationality, no foreign citizenship, no residence abroad and has never run away from the people and the country", they said in a press statement.
"The news content stating that Samdech Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport is completely untrue.”
The dismissal came after the Guardian published an article on October 3 titled "Law firm founded by Cypriot president accused of hiding assets of Russian exile".
Citing the Pandora Papers, it said: “In addition to Russian oligarchs and Saudi potentates, the Cambodian leader, Hun Sen, was discovered to have been among the thousands of non-Europeans who received a Cypriot passport."
The lawyers rebuffed the report, saying it was intended to mislead the public and distort the truth. They said the Guardian, as a well-known newspaper in Europe, failed to follow professional ethical standards.
“Such a false accusation ... has given a chance to a handful of evil opportunists to distort and exaggerate the facts leading to a worsening situation with the purposes of inciting people, stirring chaos and destroying public order, security and peace in the Cambodian society.
“The Royal Government Attorney Group hereby condemns all the misleading, exaggerating, and destructive behaviours of such handful evil opportunists,” the statement said.
The group requested the Guardian to publish an immediate retraction and warned of legal action against media outlets for such a false publication.