Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Former deputy PM Lu Lay Sreng convicted of 'defamation'

Former deputy PM Lu Lay Sreng convicted of 'defamation'

Lu Lay Sreng during an interview with Radio Free Asia. RFA
Lu Lay Sreng during an interview with Radio Free Asia. RFA

Former deputy PM Lu Lay Sreng convicted of 'defamation'

Former Funcinpec official and ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng was found guilty in absentia of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen today for comments made in a private phone conversation that was secretly recorded and disseminated without his knowledge.

In the leaked phone call, Lay Sreng alleged that Prime Minister Hun Sen had paid the royalist Funcinpec party to take vacant National Assembly seats following the widely decried dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. Despite defamation being defined as public speech, and the fact that Lay Sreng's remarks were private and surreptitiously recorded, the 77-year-old was ordered to pay 500 million riel (about $125,000) to Hun Sen.

Lay Sreng, who fled to the US in October, also called King Norodom Sihamoni a “castrated chicken” during the call for remaining silent on the political crackdown.

The conversation was leaked online by the anonymous pro-government social media personality “Seiha”, who has been behind numerous other high-profile leaks seen as damaging to ruling party opponents.

“What Lu Lay Sreng said was done with ill intentions to harm the reputation of Samdech Hun Sen,” Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, said at court yesterday. “The conversation was private, but when it was posted to Facebook by Seiha, the public could hear it."

Judge Y Thavrak delivered the verdict, ordering Lay Sreng to pay not only the 500 million riel in damages, but also an additional court fine of 8 million riel (about $2,000).

Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the Cambodian Criminal Code is “unequivocal” in defining defamation as comments “intended for the public”.

“The use of defamation charges is a tool commonly used throughout the world to silence critics, be they journalists, political opponents, analysts or human rights defenders. Sadly, Cambodia is no exception,” she added.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the verdict “will set yet another chilling precedent that threatens free speech across the country”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • PM set to mend ties with US

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to US Congressman Ted Yoho, saying he is ready to improve Cambodia-US relations, and not take up issues of disagreements which have become a barrier between the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. His response to Yoho came after the congressman